MUSIC INTERVIEW - SPATIALIZE
01.01.15 - on release
of On The Edge Of Forever
Can you give us something of your musical background
- what led to your interest in music?
I was always interested
in piano from an early age, having learnt some classical
piano from my gran and taught myself some jazz pieces. But
the strong interest in creating music started when I heard
Dark Side of the Moon, The Doors and then Erpland by Ozric
Tentacles in my early teens. From that point on, it was
all about synths, pads, samples and trying to work out how
the Ozrics made those weird and wonderful sounds. Moreover,
the late nineties was a great time for trance and ambient
and I was well placed to enjoy it as I grew up in Birmingham
UK, with all the Megadog and Oscillate club nights. Oscillate
was an electronica connoisseurs club, part run by HIA, and
I think the sounds of HIA, Biosphere and Banco de Gaia got
inside my blood stream during this time. Inspired by all
this, by the age of 16 I had started to build a very basic
studio with a Roland D-5, a Juno 06, a four track tape recorder
and an Akai S01 sampler, and then added an Atari and Korg
O1R/W after a couple of years.
I also play bass guitar and have played
prog/metal/funk bass in a few friends bands for fun. I shared
a flat with a drummer for a couple of years and we would
disappear to his drum locker to jam just bass and drums
for hours on end. This is a big help when it comes to writing
basslines for Spatialize and it gives the whole project
a slightly different dimension of musicality. When I’ve
built up a drum groove and synth part groove I will often
plug my bass into the mixer, have a good old jam and when
I’ve come up with a bass riff that I like I switch
over to synth bass and play it in with a keyboard instead.
I do find that I can get more punch out of a synth bass
and that it’s easier to mix.
How did Spatialize come about?
As a teen I was often involved
with other people musically and acted as an arranger / recorder
/ keyboard player in a couple of projects and played bass
with other people. But when I suddenly found, for one reason
or another, that most of my musician friends had left Birmingham,
I began filling the arrangements with my own synth parts
and samples. I quickly realised that I enjoyed spending
time on my own in the studio, being absorbed and creating
whole tracks from start to finish with no one else to consult.
On top of that I was very influenced by trance / ambient
/ electronica so as I came to write my own music, it simply
never occurred to me to try and make any other style of
music. But I was always slightly more into the spacey, explosive
intensity of Ozrics so I think that’s where that multi-layered,
full sounding Spatialize synth style has its roots. It’s
probably also why, along with the bass playing, I often
favour a live drum sound or at least a loose, human style
My friend and fellow musician Jez Plester
came up with the name Spatialize after playing a computer
game where the character was called “The Spatializer”.
At first he wanted it for his own electronic project, but
I loved the name and we agreed that the first person to
write some sort of decent EP could use the name. I managed
to pip him to the post so we agreed I could use the name
but Jez did end up playing synth bubbles and fx at Spatialize
gigs in and around 2006.
Then the whole thing really started to solidify
into a project in the early 2000 era when I got a demo featured
in the electronic music production magazine Future Music
and won Top Tape in Sound in Sound. I produced quite a lot
of material in that period, quite a lot of it just formative,
but some of it actually quite good. So I’m going to
release a collection of the best of this early material
(2000 to 2003, pre Dryad’s Bubble) at some point in
2015, probably more an album more for people who’d
be interested in a back story.
What has been happening in the period between
In The Midst Of Myriads and On The Edge Of Forever?
In 2006 In The Midst of
Myriads was well on the way to becoming an album. However
I was working in forestry at the time and unfortunately
got Lyme’s Disease from a tick bite. Luckily it was
spotted early and treated with heavy anti-biotics but it
still floored me and really took the steam out of the creative
period that was leading towards an album. So I just released
In The Midst of Myriads as an EP / mini album and sat back
and licked my wounds for a while.
After that there wasn’t really much impetus to get
going with recording again because although Myriads had
done well within the context of a self-release for a pretty
unknown artist, the state of the music industry was looking
pretty bad at the time, CD sales were tanking, file sharing
was rampant and Bandcamp wasn’t a main player. Making
an album (a good one) is a major investment of time, effort
and money so I wasn’t really sure that it was worth
it trying to take it to the level beyond a pleasant creative
Within this context I kept tweaking away and improving my
production skills (finally with proper studio monitors!)
purely for my own interest and pleasure. That continued
for a few years with no special plan and I was spending
a fair amount of time doing yoga and regaining my health
anyway. Then, after a bit of encouragement from family,
I spent some time developing a music production for television
showreel and then started working on new Spatialize material
in 2009, picking up the embryonic “Indelible”
which was started during the Myriad period. It took off
a bit creatively speaking and between 2009 and 2013 I produced
3 albums worth of Spatialize material, an Ooze remix and
an Experiments in Silence album. I also moved down to Cornwall
during that period.
So how did it come about that you decided to release two albums
at the same time?
Well I got involved with
a record company in about 2011 who had plans for my existing
material at that point and asked me to write another album,
but in a slightly different vein; a little less psy-chill
and a bit more electronica. However, after a couple of years,
the label appeared to be evaporating before my eyes, nothing
got released and communications from them dried up. So I
ended up with a large amount of unreleased material and
when I sat down and sorted through it all a few months ago
there was clearly one album worth of psy-chill (On the Edge
of Forever), one of darker, groovy electronica (Radial)
and one of dark, ambient electronica which will come out
in 2015 called “Encrypted Transmissions” which
has some crossover appeal for fans of the Experiments in
The primary reason I released the two albums at one time
was frustration I guess. I felt that the music was just
so incredibly delayed by my involvement with a label (some
of it almost delayed by a good 4 years) that I just had
to release some music into the world to stop mould growing
on it. It’s a strange sensation to have all that unreleased
music, it’s the equivalent of artistic constipation
and it’s a bit of an energy release to finally make
it all available. With Bandcamp it’s just so liberating
to be in control of releasing and anyway, it’s just
so difficult to get people’s attention online, the
psy-market is so niche, and with me being so bad at self-promotion,
that I didn’t really think it mattered too much if
I released two albums at once. At the very least I thought
that the odd decision might at least get a few people’s
attention! Moreover I also wanted to try to use it as a
way to generate some live gig interest and show that I had
enough material for festival slots.
In the days of CD’s I might well have released the
two albums as a double album under one name, but I don’t
think the concept of a double album translates quite so
well to the digital bandcamp age. Much easier and clearer
I think for people picking up passing sounds on the Facebook
shares and Youtube snippets to have an obvious album page
with dedicated artwork, not part one and part two’s.
There was always that slight stylistic difference to the
albums anyway and in a year people will just see two albums
in the discography. So far, the majority of people have
actually bought both albums from Bandcamp at the same time,
very encouraging that people want to catch up with what
I’ve been up to.
How would you describe the main differences
between On The Edge Of Forever and Radial?
say that On the Edge of Forever is classic, unabashed global
psy-chill and is essentially an album for a festival loving
audience. It’s full of global sounds and spacey synths
and it’s very much the music that I enjoy producing
and has quite a strong positive vibe to it.
Radial was in fact a conscious decision to try to make something
a little less obviously psy-chill and a bit more electronica
style. However, from that point of view it didn’t
quite succeed as it still pretty much sounds like a psy-chill
album, only just a very slightly darker one! Although Radial
is a little more atmospheric, electronica and synth based
it still shares the same DNA and has that recognisable Spatialize
sound with the same production techniques at the core. The
difference is just the choice of sounds on Radial really;
slightly darker chords / more brooding synth atmospheres
and samples. I enjoy both albums very much, I think they
are both growers, and I’m pleased with how the mixes
and mastering are translating so far.
I think that the Encrypted Transmissions album next year
will really be the album that showcases something much more
different from Spatialize. I was always a big fan of the
early ambient electronica style, particularly Biosphere’s
Microgravity and Substrata albums, and always wanted to
make something with a much more minimal sound and with purely
electronica beats. So Encrypted Transmissions will be about
doing less, being more minimal, with a starker sound, more
downbeat and a much less global feel. The album really keys
into the Experiments in Silence vibe (my beatless soundscape
project) and is almost a bridge between the two projects.
I think it will add a little bit of texture and interest
to the Spatialize discography.
What was the inspiration, fuel or vision behind
On The Edge Of Forever?
||I think it was probably a determination
to finish the job that I started with In The Midst of Myriads.
I wasn’t going to let a little thing like Lyme’s
disease get in my way! It was also a determination to complete
a good album that I could enjoy listening to, in the style
of music that I love listening to and that I could enjoy producing
along the way. Also I felt that my production technique had
moved on a bit since In The Midst of Myriads and I felt that
this album was my chance to do justice to the sound and style
that I had already developed.
But the background fuel to the whole thing was being in a
position for a little while where I could spend full days
working on music, something that I had never really had before.
You can put together good music on evenings and weekends but
to produce something a little extra special you sometimes
need the space and time to experiment, spend time with the
mix and be ready for the inspirational moments to strike and
capture them. Having that time to develop made quite a bit
of difference and since that lift off period I can now produce
in a faster, more focused way to a higher standard.
Would you like to share with us something about
your recording methods?
were produced completely within Logic 7 running on a Mac G5.
Generally speaking my main plug-ins are Stylus RMX and EXS24
for drum sounds, Trilogy for Bass, Arturia Prophet V and Logic
EFM1 for synths, EXS24 for sampling and Logic and UAD card
for effects. There’s a fair bit of use of Supertrigga,
a glitch plug-in, which I would run on random when bouncing
down drums or synths to audio, and then sift through for the
best bits. I’m not a fan of overly glitchy music but
as a tool for adding a little bit of interest or variation
here or there, it’s great. Another great plug-in for
me is Vierring, the multiband synth sequencer from Reaktor.
However, I don’t use it as a synth. You can insert it
as an audio effect and run any audio sound or synth through
it, creating a chopped / gated sound with quite a metallic
Funnily enough one of the more essential plug-ins used on
these albums is an unassuming little number called the Roland
CE-1 Chorus pedal, an emulation of a guitar pedal which runs
on the UAD card. I used it on so many sounds as, when used
pretty dry, it just imparts a subtle ‘real life’
feel onto the source sound, so useful when using digital VST
synths. Somehow it helps certain elements to ‘sit’
properly in the mix without adding an obvious chorus effect,
although it of course does that too when needed. I tend to
use compression quite subtly, to impart a glueing effect to
the sound and then to use further volume automation to control
the larger dynamic ranges in volume. Too much compression
can sound not only a bit natty but it also can also raise
the volume of parts of the mix that you don’t necessarily
want to hear. I have also developed quite a neat workflow
for bussing the elements of my mix together (usually 8 group
busses) and have found that the UAD buss compressor can make
a very satisfying difference on these busses.
Synth-wise I also use a Roland JP8000 which excels at sounds
in upper mid ranges and highly resonant sounds. Also, having
kept a well ordered sample library catalogue over the years,
quite a few of the synths that I have owned such as the Roland
Juno 6, Yamaha CS-5 and Korg Prophecy have made their way
on to both of these recent albums. In fact one or two of the
samples used from my library on these albums date right back
to some of the very first sounds I ever made or recorded.
Nowadays, samples are ten a penny and you can pick the most
amazing atmosphere, synth or fx sound pretty much out of the
box. So it’s satisfying for myself to have to have something
personal and meaningful in there. There’s obviously
quite a lot of global samples on this album though and these
invariably come from sample libraries.
One last word on synths. The Arturia Prophet V plug-in analogue
synth was one of the main revelations though on this album.
It was recommended to me by Tom Green (Another Fine Day /
Orb) as he reckoned it to be a great emulation. And so it
is. Up to that point I had never owned a quality analogue.
Budget analogues like the Roland Juno 06 have a great sound
but it was not midi controllable with only the arpeggio being
clockable to midi. So, suddenly having a proper, midi controllable,
proper sounding analogue synth, albeit in plug-in form, helped
to class up the sound a fair bit and it is used for bass,
drum sounds, pads, riffs, and fx. Everything really.
A lot of people use Ableton but the main way I have used it
so far is rewired into Logic, in effect acting like a sample
editor / time stretcher within Logic. For instance, Ableton
allowed a Yamaha CS-5 LFO pattern recorded onto 4 track when
I was 20 to make it’s way, synced up, onto Hancock Entity.
Ableton really opened up another world and allowed me better
access to my pretty well organised sample library and the
old 4 and 8 track sounds that I had backed up to audio files
over time. When I’ve finished warping and syncing the
samples in Ableton I then bounce them into Logic. The new
Logic X has this facility to stretch and warp audio so I imagine
Ableton will now be consigned to live use on the laptop.
My general track creation workflow is this:
Build core of track with the main drum pattern, bass riff,
synth riff, main motif / Create 4 or 5 sections with different
variations / Sketch out a very rough arrangement, placing
sections where I envisage the track will flow / Mix session
on what I’ve got so far / Set up drum, synth busses
/ Build up the sections and hop around the arrangement working
on whichever part takes my fancy / Build transitions between
sections / Add all those little backward cymbals, filter sweeps,
voice samples etc / More Mixing and fx automation/ Sift through
track, tweaking here and there until you I can listen all
the way through without reaching to make any adjustments.
Do you have any interesting anecdotes
around the creating of the music?
of this music on this album was written when I lived for a
short period in Somerset, near Wells and Glastonbury. I think
that producing good quality electronic music is not just about
inspiration and skill but also about putting in the time and
effort. Externally the life of someone producing an album
is probably pretty boring. But The Mendips in Somerset is
a really atmospheric area to live and quite inspiring for
At the time I was pretty obsessed, from dawn to dusk, with
producing and I fell into a bit of a daily pattern: getting
up very early and going straight into my studio having had
no breakfast, with unkempt hair and wearing a shabby old dressing
gown; not a pretty sight! After lunch I would walk the countryside
in and out of Wells, musing on the track was going, and then
I’d put those ideas into practice as soon as I got back.
Charles Dickens used to walk for many miles whilst mulling
over his novels and I would have to agree that a damn good
walk, in terms of inspiration and creativity, is worth its
weight in gold. It gives you a chance to think, mull and ponder.
I feel that to really improve at anything, a period of complete
immersion is a good idea and can help to take you to the next
level. I think that some of the really strong, stand out tracks
came from this period in Somerset.
How did the collaboration with Krusseldorf
||Well facebook is not only a good medium for
hearing about music, it’s also a really good place to
make informal contact with other producers. I could see that
he was a contemporary producer on the scene and I think I
asked him advice about record companies and we just got chatting
via facebook messaging. He’s got a dark, dry sense of
humour and we got on well. He heard my music, I heard his
and we decided to write a track together. He’s very
communicative and writes sounds very quickly. In fact, at
one point he was writing sounds and uploading them while he
was messaging me!
At the time Simon was in his dark ambient mode and had a few
Krusseldorf loop / sketches that he wasn’t doing anything
with at the time. So he sent me 4 or 5 sketches and I chose
Great Prayer. He had written the glitch percussion part, some
piano chords, a couple of synth parts and the bass line. So
Simon had really got the ball rolling and I ran with it in
terms of sequencing and production, by adding the main drum
groove, the dubby elements, synth pads, filtered santoor,
synth solo and extra electric piano. I passed it back to Simon,
he liked it and he added a few extra special fx and made a
few mix suggestions. I think our sounds and styles blend very
sympathetically together; possibly because we’re quite
different people. The strange thing is that a couple of months
after passing me the initial audio parts, Simon’s hard
drive died and he lost all the original files. So that track
would have died too, had we not developed it together. Overall
it was a flowing and easy process and I think we’d both
like to do some more again in the future.
that the album is complete - where do you see yourself heading
||My main aim for this music for now is to
take a selection of the most upbeat material and go and gig
it out at festivals and chill-out rooms. It’s been a
while since I’ve stepped foot in a club or festival
so I’m more than ready to get out there again. In particular
I’d like to get out to some of the European festivals
and maybe even to the USA as they’ve got quite a burgeoning
electronic scene out there. I’ve got a laptop and portable
synth all ready to roll, but I’ve been out of the loop
a long time now and need to start building a few contacts
again; so if anyone is reading this in early 2015, please
get in touch ;-). I can bring good value as I can offer a
live set of beatless ambience from the Experiments in Silence
project to fill those delicate dawn slots. We’ll see
how it goes.
In terms of what I record next, I find that I go through different
phases of creativity and I can never quite plan what I’m
going to do next. However, at the moment I’m doing some
new Dreaming Tree material (global / acoustic / synthy / slightly
new age ambience) and I would like to get back into the Experiments
in Silence headspace and probably write a number of albums
in that style. I do find writing the deep, abstract ambient
a fast flowing, intuitive and peaceful experience. But I’ll
probably return eventually back to Spatialize at some point,
I always do!
to Neil for allowing us that interview.