From one of the more daring ambient artists out there, a trip into the mind of his new works now reportedly finished. Always innovative, always inventive and unpredictable in his growth as an artist, this is a perfect explanation from him about what music truly is that I couldn’t put better myself. Enjoy the trip!
Chain D.L.K.: You seem to constantly be working on something new and daring each and every time. Often back to back. What keeps you so inspired after all this time?
Steve Roach: My creative impulses are what feel natural and true at a core level, putting myself into it as deep as possible, I don’t question the process. The space I tap into when creating is a constant, endless spring that gives me energy in the most direct way. Usually I have to really drag myself out of the studio to do other things including eating out of necessity. I am sure it’s a feeling most creative folks will relate to. Like the exercising of anything physical, mental or spiritual over time, the strength builds and a deeper connection grows, especially when these elements are brought together with particular intentions a kind of energy is built up over time on many levels. Over the years the momentum has built and now it just feels like there is never enough time in the day to tend all the fires.
Chain D.L.K.: When some see the term ‘ambient’ referred to your music I think they tend to get confused by what is perceived as ambient. How would you describe the difference in your music from, say, Aphex Twin?
Steve Roach: I feel there has always been to much obsession with what’s in a word. Losing the connection to the bigger picture of just the art itself, for me if it moves you then that is it, done. Ambient as a word for this music has been around for nearly 30 years now and it certainly means many different things by now, from Eno to Monolake to my music. I feel the difference between Aphex and what I do is not all that different in that it creates a strong mood and sense of space, after that its a personal preference as to the flavor you wish to taste in this area. One just has to be open-minded, listen for themselves and think outside the genre.
Chain D.L.K.: Tell us a bit about the upcoming CD set, “Mystic Chords”, which is from what you tell me upgraded to a 4-CD set.
Steve Roach: Its a culmination of the spaces I most love to be in and create. This project began in 1996, as a seed of an idea, a feeling that was coming into form. My release from the mid 90’s “The Magnificent Void” was an earlier step into this direction and several more along the way have led to this release. For me its about creating non-rhythmic, deep textural spaces that cast a light into emotions and mental spaces that I perceive as this kind of in-between place, it’s a subtle place outside the daily routines and ordinary consciousness. Over the years the feeling for creating these “openings” continued to grow fervently. It is a direction that is still being explored now after the “Mystic” release since I am still creating pieces that are steeped in the same place as what’s found in the box set. Also late last year I released “Darkest Before Dawn” which was intended to be the first part of this body of work. I am feeling that in several months another chapter will follow in this feeling found on “Mystic Chords”. “Darkest” is one 74 min zone that works best playing all day and night at a lower volume.
Chain D.L.K.: Is it related at all to the previous CD, “Trance Spirits” at all? Or is it something completely different?
Steve Roach: No relation at all, trance Spirits is built from complex African based drumming. The textual element was formed from my sound-world approach along with some soundscapes from Robert Fripp. My tendency is to work on many different projects at the same time. Some days I will be in more of a quiet space, or just want to work on creating sounds, then another day it might be only grooves or then it’s another day where it all ebbs and flows together. It just feel right to have many different irons staying hot from one day to the next and letting the creative impulses feed each other.
Chain D.L.K.: Think of this as a kind of preview: Paint us a visual of what you picture in your head as you playing the songs, or a song in specific, from “Mystic Chords”, with objects, colors, etc. included.
Steve Roach: I think the cover image of the spiral is a nice focal point for the feeling of the music. Its about tapping into the feeling of Infinity. That’s about as open ended of a theme as one could ask for as inspiration, it says it all for me and suggests everything I would say about the sound and music on this release. I often see non-formed images, arrays for color as well as more structured forms but more than anything its emotional-feeling states that are not easily defined. When I work on these pieces for long periods as I do its quite fascinating to see what comes up on the mental screen after being steeped in a zone for a few weeks straight. These are the moments I most enjoy in the studio. That feeling is what I offer to you on the disk. Another important point is that these are not songs, they are zones or spaces which evolve out of each other. With all of this said I feel the real impact of this music should be in each person.
Chain D.L.K.: With the dancier tone of “Trance Spirit” could we be seeing you move towards a techno-ambient experiment in the future? I think you’d put a very interesting twist on it!
Steve Roach: I think of it as a more Trancier tone. Over the years I have moved in and out of more rhythmic zones. If someone was to know only my beatless zones then they would be missing a large part of the other side of my work. At certain times I quite enjoy the more minimal groove-driven ambient and heavier trance element has been a strong center in my music for years.
Chain D.L.K.: Will we hear you sing on the upcoming CD? If not, what do you sound like when you sing, in your own opinion?
Steve Roach: I use my voice and have for years but its always in some kind of gravel voiced shaman mode of expression. I am not a singer (except through my didgeridoo) and we can leave it at that.
Chain D.L.K.: One of the things I notice in the ambient scene is complete influence from drugs. Future Sound of London was created and formed around one extreme acid trip both members had (did they ever really get out of it? ), Tangerine Dream around pot much of the time, etc. Do you draw influence from that or is it all from your own natural mentality?
Steve Roach: In my early days the influence from turning the lights on and off quickly, the way psychedelics do helped play a part of my self discovery and deeper understandings of the power of sound. I have always been more interested in sound and music itself as the “medicine” and my aim for years is to create music that by itself alters the sense of time and personal space. I know that the need to alter consciousness is a birthright to humans. For me music and sound is a reliable and relatively safe way to activate the brain’s natural drug store house. One of my favorite quotes by Salvador Dali was “I don’t need to do LSD, I am LSD”.
Chain D.L.K.: Ok, funny question here before we go to relieve the tension… Do you start getting the visuals in your head as you play the songs, get really deep into it, and start thinking of food when you’re hungry doing that? Like picturing floating cheeseburgers and tye-dye pickles talking to people?
Steve Roach: Who is tense? That sounds like your answer to the question just above: )
Chain D.L.K.: Anything else before we go?
Steve Roach: I am presenting a concert in Harrisburg PA June 22, if anyone is interested please visit my web site www. steveroach. com for info on the concert and the “Mystic Chords” release, thanks for the time and listen deep.
Visit Steve Roach on the web at:
[interviewed by Shaun Hamilton] [proofreading by Marc Urselli]