MUSIC INTERVIEW - SPATIALIZE 2
28.05.15 - on release
Radial and On the Edge Of Forever were released
together - how did you come to separate the tracks into these
two distinct albums?
When I was previously working
on a release with a label, they were favouring darker, more
contemporary electronica material rather than the more psychedelic
chill sound. Even though I didn’t end up releasing
with them, there was a core of tracks developing around
a slightly different, darker, groove based, electronica
style. When I made the decision to self-release and began
to sift through all the unreleased material from the past
few years, I started by creating playlists in a very useful
program called Vox. It took quite a few attempts to get
it right, and certain tracks were jumping around even after
the mastering stage. But all in all, I could see 3 albums
emerging through the fog. Radial in a darker electronica
style, On The Edge of Forever in a psy-chill /global mood,
and Encrypted Transmissions as another darker electronica
album, which I will probably release at some point later
in 2015. In some cases the differences between On the Edge
of Forever and Radial aren’t that great and there
were a few tracks that could have gone on either album but
core difference is there and that helped to give each of
the albums a bit of an identity. I think when you factor
in the artwork when you’re working on tracklisting,
you just get a feel for what should go where.
What were the deciding factors in choosing
tracks for Radial?
Tracks with a darker atmosphere,
more minor chords and a slightly more hypnotic feel. I did
move over Squelchy Eluchqy from On the Edge of Forever at
the last minute because I just felt that that particular
album was running a bit long, but I thought that the move
worked well. I’m not a fan of overlong albums and
tried to ensure that neither of the two recent albums dragged
on too long, even though there was some excess material.
Although there are no hard and fast rules, I feel that 55
minutes for electronic music is somewhere round the sweet
spot. Any longer than that and you start to lose your concentration
and the album just becomes background music. There are so
many albums I could point to in the past few years that
would stand as stronger pieces of art if they lost 2 or
even 3 tracks, and I didn’t want to fall into that
trap with these releases. I’m guessing that the gradual
extension of album lengths is due to increased medium capacities,
wider access to recording technology, a culture of musical
internet “glut” and the slow death of record
companies which acted, in effect, as musical editors
What would you expect to be the main audience/purpose
for the music on Radial?
A combination of chill out
rooms at clubs/ festivals and home listening. The original
idea from the label I was working with was that it would
crossover a bit from the psy world into the electronica
world, but I think that Radial still has, on the whole,
a pretty festival style sound and I think it would probably
get a good atmosphere and groove going in a festival chill
out tent / club. With regards to the audience more specifically,
I think the main member of the audience to please is me.
When I’m listening to music I often feel myself wanting
to hear something spacey and musical, with plenty of interest,
but not too glitchy and with a groove. Something like a
downbeat, synth based Ozrics track.
Are there specific instruments/techniques that are more prominent
on Radial than on other releases of yours?
Not really. The instruments
and techniques on the 2 recent albums are broadly similar,
I’d say it’s just a slight tweak of implementation.
If I take an overview though, one thing I would say about
Radial is that it does feature quite a lot of Arturia Prophet
5 and VS (wavetable synth) pads, pads which form a deep
backbone to the track and if you took them away it might
sound a tad empty. That’s the beauty and subtlety
of the analogue emulations. The Roland JP-8000 (Virtual
Analogue) gets used for the primary synth sound on quite
a few tracks, particularly on Koog and Zalem and Dimensions.
The JP-8000 isn’t the greatest synth in the world
but it’s got a decent user interface and a playable
keyboard so it’s good fun to hit record and go wild
with it, and then sift back through the recording, sampling
the best bits. Logic’s Auto Filter has a distortion
algorithm which, at low level, can roughen sounds up nicely.
Check out the main synth sound on koog and Zalem. That was
a JP-8000 with the amp and filter controlled by the S/H
LFO, sampled off and fed through Logic’s Auto filter
What would you say is the key to the high technical
quality of the Spatialize sound?
a nice compliment in itself. Thanks.
I think that, as with all music, you
have to start out with the right sounds and the right sequence
/ arrangement before you consider too closely the whole
production process. I think that people view creativity
and production as different animals, and they are to certain
extent, but I really feel that getting good, initial, raw
sounds sitting together in the first instance with well
written, musical sequences is the key to the end production
sound. So while I am building up an idea I don’t do
a great deal of mixing or production for quite a while as
I think that it not only gets in the way of the creative
process. I do think that if a track is sounding initially
good without compression or too many enhancements then you
know that the production process will only serve to make
it better, the knock on effect being that your production
tasks further down the line will be simpler. Once I think
a track is gaining momentum and has an arrangement layout
of different sections I will do an initial mix. This comprises
compression and eq on the individual tracks and then bussing
them all out into my 8 categorised sound groups, and also
pulling down the volume of the track to preserve output
headroom. Then I will go back through the track working
on different sections until the music is 95% finished. Then
I will add compression and eq, stereo widening, exciting
etc to the 8 mix busses which I where I tend to stack my
premium, cpu eating plug-ins. It’s quite useful to
be systematic as you don’t get overwhelmed by the
options available in a modern DAW.
Finally there can be a fairly long period
of what you might call polishing the mix and this is where
I typically add a lot of the little sounds that top off
a track; backward sounds, fx automation, glitches, cymbal
crashes and filter sweeps. Then I listen over and over again
making adjustments (lots and lots of volume automation)
until you can make it the whole way through the track without
feeling the need to make any adjustments, a process which
requires patience and application. Or tinkering. I think
I could sum the whole process as a mixture of luck, judgement,
experience and sheer bloody minded persistence.
Can you tell us something about the artwork
for your music?
||For a start the artwork for
anything since the debut album Dryad’s Bubble is not
specially commissioned, it is the result of sifting through
online image sites where you can make a one off payment to
use an image to promote a product. Firstly I try to find an
image that clicks with me and that I feel represents the music
well, and then I fit an album name to the artwork afterwards.
That may seem contra instinctual but it allows you to choose
an image based on its own properties and not how they relate
to a word or concept, as you could be searching the web for
weeks to achieve that. Obviously it would be great to employ
a designer to work to an initial idea or concept, but that
elevates the budget. And at a time when the margins are so
small on releases, the artist often has to take charge of
this side of thing and personally I regard the mastering as
a much more important process to spend money on.
With regards to the Radial cover, I immediately
liked the image as it reminded me of the Orb’s U.F.Orb,
which is fitting as 90’s ambient music was a most
influential period for me. I felt that the dark background
reflects the darker electronic edge of the music and that
the radiating wheel emphasises the overlaid spacey, psychedelic
vibe. When I came to fit a word to it, “Radial”
came up almost straight way, which I liked also because
it was a little shorter and pithier than “On the Edge
Since both Radial and On the Edge of Forever
are digital releases - do you see yourself leaving physical
discs in the past?
||At the moment
I would say yes. I’m not totally against cd’s
and I would never say never but given that this is such a
niche genre of music and, given the downward trend of physical
cd sales, it just doesn’t make too much sense at the
moment. I do also like the simplicity of just selling digitally,
just receiving notifications of purchases and not having the
constant search for jiffy bags and trips to the post office.
There are other advantages too. People can access it easily
and immediately, and with bandcamp you can offer high quality
24bit FLAC downloads too, which trumps 16bit cd quality anyway.
Digital downloads don’t require a plastic jewel case
either which has to be better for the environment overall.
I do however miss certain elements of cd’s and vinyl
but on the whole I prefer the convenience and flexibility
In another interview with us you talked
of Experiments in Silence - what can you tell your listeners
about this project?
as a concept, was inspired initially by the experimental nightly
builds of the Cloudcycle project (Mauxuam, Greg Hunter, Master
Margheurita) on Soundcloud. I really liked the concept of
using Soundcloud as a way of throwing ideas up online, with
other interested producers as a sounding board so I created
a Soundcloud account using the name for an ambient track I
wrote years ago. I also liked the challenge of using the skills
I have developed in a very concentrated way to produce in
a compressed time period. I have always been a big fan of
Biosphere, Eno and beatless atmospheric soundscapes and indeed
a lot of Spatialize tracks start off with sometimes a good
couple of minutes of atmospheres. So it seemed like a very
natural extension and I decided to start off a project in
I also received a bit of help from Matt
Hillier (of Ishq fame) who also lives in Cornwall UK. I
would play him something and he would say “take that
out, take that out and take that out” and helped me
strip things right down. He encouraged me to work without
a click track and to completely remove rhythmic structures
and instead focus the interest on the slowly shifting atmospheres
themselves. Simple advice, hard to follow. But after a while
I got it and found that I could write, record and produce
soundscapes tracks, sometimes within just hours. I have
found that working only when I feeling really inspired,
and often in the very fragile silence of the early morning,
is the key. I was quite surprised by the reception that
the first Experiments in Silence album “Hidden Harmonic”
(CD release on Txt) got. It seemed that a lot of people
really clicked with it so I was very happy and it continues
to sell well with people frequently discovering and buying
it on bandcamp.
Having recently worked on music ranging
from the Experiments in Silence release to the more gutsy
Radial - do you have a preferred leaning when writing
||I enjoy both styles. With Experiments it’s
a bit like the ambient music equivalent of doing a zen painting
where a spontaneous, well placed brushstroke fills the canvas.
This is the opposite to the Spatialize approach where, after
an initial creative flourish with the core structure of the
track, I will spend a long time building sequence layers,
crafting song sections / transitions and then spend a good
amount of time fine tuning and polishing the mix. It is definitely
refreshing with the Experiments approach, not thinking too
much and just allowing the music to come out but there’s
nothing quite like it in Spatialize writing mode when a groove
is really gelling, the music is loud and you’re laying
down a deep bass line or a cool synth break. So both approaches
have their advantages.
With regards to performing, Spatialize is
good to play live too as there’s lots of tempo synced
fun to be had and lots of synth lines I can play live. Moreover
from the 4 albums, there’s a good 2 hours of fairly
upbeat / funky chillout material to play so I imagine it
should get a good groove going. I haven’t performed
Experiments in Silence live but I imagine, given the right
ultra-chilled atmosphere, it will be quite a special experience
to emanate some delicate harmonics towards a horizontal
audience. There’s something special about really deep
ambient music played on loud PA speakers; it gives the music
a presence and power that it might not have on a domestic
hi-fi or headphones.
was the most recent piece of music that you have been developing
- what did you last have your hands on?
||At the time of writing it’s an extended
experimental generative piano piece for Experiments in Silence
using piano samples from Shostakovich. Initially it’s
quite in the vein of say, Brian Eno’s Thursday Afternoon,
but it drifts into soundscape / drone territory and back again.
It’s really a rather pleasant piece of music to work
on. Drifting drifting, in a neo-classical way.
to Neil for allowing us that interview.
More from Spatialize here.