The new album comes out in July but something has started, why wait? Here are his words, with me playing the role of Q.
Music, for me, has become a way of life. I write most days, and in fact, it is a chief pastime. That being said, I can’t be sure how the lightning of ideas strikes the inorganic molecule and brings it life. Inspiration remains a mystery. I can suggest that it has helped a great deal to follow my instincts and intuitions, given that they tend to take my music into more fruitful and less-predictable places.
It has been said that all music is rhythm, or percussion. If this is true, then I hope to help musicians and listeners alike realize that they can be free of militant or precise rhythms, as I feel that the West has a sort of craze with rhythmic precision that is far from ideal.
I would add music is a virtue that tends to be human. And I want to add that I love music, even traditional music, and would suggest to no one that they throw out their recordings. What generative enables us to see is that humans can also systematically PLAN music, in some ways. In other words, we can enable the computer certain possibilities, which it then enacts– and often, then, we can and do curate the results.
That being said, music remains a mystery in many ways. Especially interesting to me are the ways that certain tones sound good together, and the existence of harmonics– a documented phenomenon that shows what happens as key frequencies unite.
The act of listening– we open our ears, and invite music into our minds. We allow it to create its effects. And I feel that we can open our ears and minds more or less according to our inclination(s). For example, Beethoven’s “Ode To Joy” makes me weep with emotion every time I listen closely, so I tend to avoid listening to it except for at certain times.
I try to amass a substantially-sized batch of sounds that I think will work together. These have to be iterable– they have to work with themselves and one another, in pretty much any combination. It is helpful, for example, if they are already in tune with one another, and don’t contain sonic elements that are silly or offensive or might stick out from the rest. The second level happens with each track, and that is where I use my Python to index the larger set and randomly make extractions from it, then treating the extractions in ways that make them more musical in a loop-based mixing context.
Q How did your own parents introduce music to you growing up?
They were great lovers of music. They played their records all of the time, including especially The Beatles and The Beach Boys. My father was, secretly, very talented, and could play banjo, ukelele and piano. I always imagined he could have become a musician, if he had wanted.
Q If a youngster was interested in making music, how would you advise her?
I am afraid the good old, it’s going to take a number of years and please stick with it, remains the best advice. It might be some time before the music even feels personal or relevant. Stick with it, and sooner or later, I believe it will. And as a young person makes the music more and more their own, so do they progress, until their relationship with music becomes an impassioned commitment.
Q How would you explain your creative process to a youngster who is curious about life’s possibilities?
There will be times, I would suggest, when life seems to restrict a person, to limit their range of choices. I would reassure the young person that music, and art, in general, have a way of re-opening these closed pathways, and restoring creativity and free expression to one’s life.
Q What is it about the sound that attracts you to your unique work?
All I can say is that I like what certain music(s) do to my mind. And I am amazed at the chance to help others feel the same way.
Q I close my eyes when listening to your music and find myself traveling to strange worlds I have never seen before, does your visual side influence your music?
It is absolutely great to hear. I often think of my music as a means, in part, for a clean, drug-free trip. I want people to let it take them places, to imagine those places, Using music in this way a creative catalyst has been really important to me. It is more than an escape– it helps to actually cultivate certain types of innovative thinking and behaviour.
Q What would you like to try that you have not tried yet?
It certainly would be a thrill to have a church’s pipe organ to play.
Q Where do you dream of going? (vacation, tour, exploration, by time machine, etc.)
Portland is already a favorite destination, though my wife and I have only been once. We actually plan to move there when we retire. I like the idea of setting down that close to the Pacific Ocean.
I’ve been making music with electronics since I was about 12. It’s something I can’t not do. My previous album came out in 2005, and although I never stopped making music in the interim, I didn’t dedicate as much time toward my own music as I felt was necessary to come up with results that I was happy with sharing, other than a few tracks here and there that I was happy with. Much of my musical efforts over the past 15 years or so have been toward mastering other people’s music (see discography here). I decided it was time to come back out of hibernation and put together a (small) collection of tracks that I could be happy with presenting as an album; this is the result: Consciousness and other tricks of the light
I know that I am conscious. You know that you are conscious. This knowledge is itself consciousness. I know that you are conscious (and vice versa) because you and I know that we are the same sort of thing, and because we observe behaviors in each other that are consistent with our own experience of consciousness. And thus, (most of us) conclude by induction that others are conscious, as we are.
Now consider a cat. A cat exhibits complex behaviors, and most people agree that cats are conscious (at least, for a few hours a day). The jury is still out on ants, though. Plankton? Probably not, except on SpongeBob.
But now let’s consider artificial intelligence. You and I can say “well we know Siri/Cortana/Bixby/Alexa aren’t conscious”; we know how they work. Are they not conscious because we know how they work, or are they not conscious because their behaviors are insufficiently complex and we can explain them away? Science fiction abounds with robots and artificial intelligences with varying degrees of consciousness and recognition/acceptance of their consciousness (and their free will and their rights). (Maybe you can tell that my favorite literary genre is SciFi and my favorite writers are Asimov, Banks and Clarke?)
What about the in-between areas, where (when?) we have robots which (a) we know and can explain how they work and how they make decisions, and yet (b) exhibit behavior that’s complex enough that we can’t explain all of the factors that went into a given course of action? (We already have enough trouble auditing/debugging convolutional neural networks.) I would say that if a system exhibits behavior that we can’t tell whether is conscious or not, then it is morally imperative that we treat it as though it is conscious, and recognize its rights accordingly. If we turn that back around, can we prove that we are conscious?
My position is that it doesn’t matter. Consciousness is a red herring; it is a property that we can’t define, and can only implicitly/indirectly observe. It is an illusion; a trick of the light.
I’m attracted to mythology and folklore in general, not exclusively Egyptian. I think it’s actually part of my fascination with consciousness, as the archetypes that are explored in myth tend to be similar across cultures and may have origins that predate the emergence of humans. As a teenager, I was completely captivated by The Origin of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind by Julian Jaynes, and although I understand that current science rejects some of his ideas, I found them fascinating and inspiring.
I was born in Cleveland and grew up in Northwest Indiana. I went to college in Illinois, and then came to Pittsburgh for grad school. I liked it here, so I stayed. I currently live in the Strip District right outside of “dahntahn” Pittsburgh. I have a reasonably short commute, which has gotten even shorter over the last six weeks. (I lived in the north suburbs and had a long commute for 10 years, which influenced my decision to go work on autonomous vehicles from 2015-2019, though I’m now back out of that industry.)
I think my interest in drones is explicitly linked to growing up in the Midwest where you can look off into the distance on a hazy summer day and just get lost in thought for hours on end. Some of the drones I make are explicit attempts to capture aspects of “The Hum.”
As a kid, I was very interested in listening to the LPs we had at the house, which included Switched-On Bach and Rumours and The White Album, along with some rock classics like ZZ Top Tres Hombres and Tejas. In school I was in all (ALL) of the bands and really loved a lot of the band and orchestral pieces we played, by people like Percy Grainger and Paul Hindemith. I was also a big fan of Claude Debussy, and Holst’s The Planets was huge for me as well. As a trumpet player, I was (am) pretty enamored of Live at Jimmy’s by Maynard Ferguson.
I went to the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, so the Foellinger Great Hall at the Krannert Center for the Performing Arts is pretty high on that list. It’s a gorgeous venue, which I got to know as an audience member and as a member of the University recording staff. I’ve seen hundreds of concerts in that hall, including the Chicago Symphony.
Another highlight was performing The Pines of Rome in a brass ensemble consisting of hundreds of high school and college students at Butler University in Indianapolis. I still get chills for that piece of music.
On the other end of the spectrum, there used to be a little cafe in Urbana called The Nature’s Table which was about 400 square feet with maybe five tables, that used to be jam-packed for live jazz combo music (many featuring university faculty) several nights a week until 3am or so.
I think music is particularly interesting because it is temporal. You can read at whatever speed you want. You can look at sculpture or paintings at your own pace. You can watch movies (or video of theatre) at a different speed and still get the gist. Music (including opera) is experienced at a specific speed which is part of the experience.
Wabi Sabi is the newest album from Seattle-New York-Eau Clair based world-hopping jazz band THE TIPTONS SAXOPHONE QUARTET & DRUMS and is available starting today, May 1, 2020, from their bandcamp website:
The sound of the Tiptons is all about saxophones, not just the energized type of sound you expect from all that brass, you will hear a massive grooving and pumping jump band music machine with lots of moving parts that takes influences from all around the world: Funk, Jazz, Scat, World, Soul, Groove, Eastern European Klezmer, and of course the way way way beyond. This amply provides the band members with a glorious platform to celebrate their individual talents, with lots of vocal improvisational experimentation on top. The first rehearsal was 30 years ago in November. The members are AMY DENIO: alto sax, clarinet, voice; JESSICA LURIE: soprano, alto, tenor sax, voice; SUE ORFIELD: tenor sax, voice; TINA RICHERSON: baritone sax, voice; and ROBERT KAINAR: drums, percussion.
The Tipton Saxophone Quartet was formed as an homage to Billy Tipton (December 29, 1914 – January 21, 1989) who was an amazing musician and noteworthy industry pioneer. Tipton’s musical career began in the mid-1930s when he led Louvenie’s Western Swingbillies for radio broadcasts. He played in various dance bands in the 1940s and in the mid-1950s recorded two trio albums of jazz standards for Tops Records. After that he also worked as a talent broker. Tipton stopped performing in the late 1970s because of arthritis. Tipton’s female birth sex was not publicly revealed until after death, and the revelation came as a surprise to family and friends. For decades, Tipton assumed a male gender identity because the music industry was not about to give a woman all of the breaks and opportunities that a man would automatically get, so she secretly took it all on her own personal terms.
THE NEW ALBUM RELEASE “Wabi Sabi” IS HAPPENING TODAY!!
Denio (rhymes with Ohio) says that “Usually when we finish an album we don’t want to hear it any more. This one, on the other hand, is really FUN! The material is well written, well played, and well produced. A trifecta!”
Support this amazing group of musicians by purchasing their album TODAY!
An Interview with Spotted Peccary Artist John Gregorius
John Gregorius has served as a producer, guitarist and engineer, recording various bands at his own studio in Southern California, Sound Art Productions. When he started recording his own compositions. it opened up a whole new dimension to his life that he obtained only by making music that honestly moved him rather than making music that he thought people wanted. His first album, Under the Ice was released in 2000, followed by Heaven and Earth, which became his debut album on the Spotted Peccary Music label, where he shared some of his thoughts about creating his music. “I’ve always enjoyed fingerstyle acoustic guitar and ambient, processed electric guitar,” says Gregorius. “Heaven and Earth is a combination of these two styles, which may seem quite different, but much like the intertwining of the physical and spiritual this combination seems to flow naturally from one piece to another.”
Heaven and Earth has been played quite a bit on John Diliberto’s amazing nightly music soundscape radio program, Echoes, which is syndicated all throughout the known listening universe. Eventually, Heaven and Earth was voted number 62 out of the top 200 CDs for the last 20 years of Echoes. After this he recorded an independent release called Hours with John Wineglass on viola at Saint John’s Episcopal Church. His interest in the contemplative spiritual life influenced the song titles, which have been based on the hours of monastic prayer. Hearing these songs that were recorded live in that beautiful church is an amazing listening experience. His next album, Still Voice (continuing in his own words) “is a mixture of acoustic and electric instrumental music that ranges from earthy fingerstyle guitar to ambient textural soundscapes.” This recording features his well known electric and acoustic ambient guitar with piano, cello, upright bass, drums, programming and vocals. “There’s definitely a spiritual aspect to the music. Silence, simplicity, service, communion, mystery and contemplative thought, are all inspirations for this work. Still Voice is the Voice that tells us who we are, beloved and sacred.”
The music of John Gregorius is easygoing and engaging, from refreshingly simple fingerstyle guitar to the emotional resonance of layered textural soundscapes. The sounds that result grow out of life’s mysteries, through this process the listener and player continue a search for meaning within a highly dynamic environment that is tightly focused on the volatility and transience of listening, a sound that is easily appreciated and enjoyed. I had the opportunity to ask John why he makes the music that he makes.
I think what drew and still draws me to instrumental music is the mystery. It’s a spiritual thing, it’s an awe inspiring thing that 12 notes can produce something that moves us so deeply. Music has often been used as a product but in its purest sense it’s the connection with something bigger, something beyond our understanding.
It’s sort of like breathing, it’s just something I love to do. If prayer is simply talking, connecting and or listening to God, then while creating, recording or “painting” the music, being awake to this conversation or simply being awake to the divine presence is how music can become prayer. Instead of getting lost in the mechanics, get lost in the present, listening and speaking.
What would you like to share about your introduction to music as a child?
There was a new Music teacher in 4th or 5th grade who received a grant and bought a bunch of instruments for the school. She invited students to come in and just play instruments. For some reason I went right for the guitar and honestly don’t remember trying anything else out. Soon after I got a guitar and started lessons.
What advice might you offer for someone starting out and considering their possibilities?
Through my years of playing with pop bands and many other times in life, I tried to make it or play the music I thought people wanted. It wasn’t until I started making the music that honestly moved me that “success” happened. Now, success often doesn’t mean money or huge numbers of people listening. Remember Van Gogh only sold 2 painting in his lifetime. Yet, there are stories of people playing my music through tough times and they found healing in it. Now, that’s success! I say this to you and to myself. I constantly question the worth of my music and why I work so hard to make it. This has to be the answer. I make music because I love making music. If one person benefits, then it’s worth it. There’s a poem by Emily Dickinson called “Not in Vain” which speaks to this perfectly.
If I can stop one heart from breaking,
I shall not live in vain:
If I can ease one life the aching,
Or cool one pain,
Or help one fainting robin
Unto his nest again,
I shall not live in vain.
How would you describe your music’s spirituality?
My music comes from the desire for communion. It can be deep or distant or mysterious and at times it’s a struggle but much of the time it’s a space of being home or grounded. For me, I cannot be content without a close, honest and prayerful connection with our Loving God. I think this comes out in the music. On Heaven and Earth you hear a specific spiritual space compared to Still Voice which was a deeper time of searching for both God and who I was. Full of life is simply letting Joy and Mystery flow together, discovering spiritual connection in nature and love.
What is the most beautiful place you have ever performed in?
The most beautiful place I performed in was St. John’s Episcopal Church in Rancho Santa Margarita. The cathedral’s acoustics were amazing and was filled with natural light. It was a deep spiritual space which felt much like being up in the mountains with a breeze blowing through the trees.
What was your most positive surprise in life?
Well, this is an interesting one. I was ready to go into an Episcopal monastery to become a monk. Then, by some interesting circumstances I met my now wife Catherine. Soon we got married and moved to beautiful Tucson Arizona, where we are discovering together the awe inspiring Sonoran landscape and local culture.
What listening matter got you to where you are today?
This is a big list! I think Kansas and Led Zeppelin moved me early on in elementary school through Jr. High. In high school I was a big progressive music fan plus classical guitar which I was self taught during this time. A record by Allan Holdsworth called I O U came out in the 80s that simply blew me away. Another guitarist who influenced me was Phil Keaggy who could play incredible electric, classical and fingerstyle steel string guitar and is a man of faith. At the same time I loved Tears for Fears, Simple Minds and other 80s bands. Fast forward to my beginning of loving ambient music. After my daughter was born, I found this space of being in the moment, in nature and being a dad. Artists like The Blue Nile, Peter Gabriel, Cocteau Twins, Harold Budd resonated with me. I became inspired to start making my own instrumental music. As I look back, whether Led Zeppelin, Pink Floyd, Beatles, Yes or Genesis, I always like the slower, minor, more ambient songs. This recording I released independently and soon after recorded Heaven and Earth. Today, I love modern classical like Arvo Part, Olafur Arnalds, and Max Richter along with Post Rock bands like Hammock. No matter what, there is a spiritual side to music that moves me.
I see from your biography that you are involved with the Orange County Christian rock scene, such as East West, Reel Big Fish, Bionic Jodi…
Well, Reel Big Fish is a ska band I recorded while I was the owner/operator of Sound Art Recording. Now they definitely aren’t a Christian band but it was a lot of fun recording a style of music I hadn’t really listened to before and they were great kids. For other bands I became more involved in the production, guitar playing and writing processes. This was a great time to grow as a producer. As for bandmates, most of the people who have played on my recordings had a history of together in church. There was a great connection playing music together to celebrate God’s love.
Where do you come up with your best ideas?
I would say either sitting in a quiet room with a guitar, looper and reverb or out in nature. We were able to get a home on the east side of Tucson. We are only 2 miles away from Saguaro National Park west which is home to the Rincon Mountains. It’s a place we often hike. We often watch the evening light change these mountains to an amazing pink color.
How does the landscape you are inhabiting influence your music?
For this recording especially, I’ve been influenced by the Sonoran desert of Tucson. There is so much life that thrives in the many seasons here. We have a fairly short monsoon season in the middle of the hottest time of summer which nourishes the plants and animals through the year. The Saguaro cactus somehow thrives in the environment and can live up to 200 years. The spring is full of colorful flowers and creeks running from snow runoff. It snowed a winter back and it was amazing to see snow falling on the cacti. So there is this great mystery of life in the desert. Maybe this is why mystics and monks have found deep spiritual life in the desert.
What is one of your most meaningful moments/discoveries in your life?
On a beautiful day in the Pacific Northwest, I was walking with my freshman high school friends, laughing and having what seemed like a perfect day. Yet, once alone I had this deep question, is this all there is? This is where my deeper spiritual journey led me to communion with the Creator who loves us and brings us to wholeness which I found in Christ. Over time my faith has broadened and grown but the central view of Jesus’ life and death and life has been my connection, my communion with God.
What would you like to try that you have not tried yet?
I’d like to do a solo backpacking trip. There’s something about the solitude and challenge that interests me.
Where do you dream of going?
I would love to see what Southern California, Tucson and other beautiful spaces looked like when only the Native Americans lived here. I have a deep respect for the way the land was taken care of in a sacred way so maybe I could sit and listen to the wisdom and enjoy the clear air, flowing water and abundant wildlife.
How do you balance producing and teaching and performing?
This is interesting, because as artists we have to make a living. The kind of music we do with Spotted Peccary has a broad audience (and I find most people desire contemplative ambient music) but there aren’t many avenues to play live. So teaching became my main source of income but I don’t want to belittle it’s importance. I taught art, Music and coached sports for 15 years and loved it. Teaching is something that came naturally to me. Currently, I teach guitar to about 50 students at Allegro School of Music. This gives me time to keep creating music and I’m very happy with the new release Full of Life which is deeply influenced by my new life with Catherine and the Tucson desert. I think this is fertile ground because I’ve written many new songs for my next recording as well.
You have such an abundance of original music that you share with the world, what is your compositional process like?
It usually starts with one or two chords or arpeggio. Then, I add harmony which moves it the way I’m feeling it should go. Sometimes I start out looking for a certain space, like slower repetition or maybe a bit more complex solo piece. I’ve been inspired by using different tunings. For Full of Life, I used Robert Fripp’s New Standard Tuning which brought new ideas and ways of approaching the guitar and writing.
Much of the music is “written” on acoustic with a looper to either create atmosphere or second and third parts or melodies. Solos are improvised but I do this sparingly. The more ambient pieces like Rincon Fading Light are at least begun with improvisation. From there I work intuitively with layers, atmospheres and melodies.
How do you decide between electric compared to acoustic guitar sounds?
Hmmm, I wonder if it’s just what I picked up that day? I’ve always liked the sound of electric or electronics along with acoustic/organic sounds. So, as I’m recording, I may try different guitars to add interest or breathe a different life into a song.
What is next for your music?
I’m very interested in music as prayer. Does that mean a more stripped down, solo performance kind of recording or a simple prayer without ceasing approach to production? Maybe it’s an entire record where the listener can sit in a prayerful space? I’m not sure yet, but I’m excited and inspired right now to keep creating.
Thank you for this opportunity to explore your music further!
An interview with Ambient Electronic Musician Chris Russell
Chris Russell’s otherworldly creations often call to mind abstract sci-fi visuals, and the surreal soundscapes of Destiny, his third solo album for the Spotted Peccary label, keeps the dream alive. It feels to me like time falls away as the album’s glistening tones move toward terrifying horizons, rising and falling and rising again on the broad swells of a sizzling sonic sea.
“Russell’s mastery of expansive ambient electronic soundworlds is on full display within the music of Destiny, and the album’s subtle but all-encompassing spaces give rise to an immersive and thought-provoking listening experience that breathes and evolves with nuance and depth. Through the use of delays, granular filters, and long reverbs, Russell explores slow-flowing spaces with an artistic and cinematic flair, painting a world where delicate veils of sound are frozen in slow-motion breezes, where seething pools of shimmering electrons glisten in sonic starlight, and where distant drones and faraway textures approach and recede into mysterious swirling mists.”
From the Spotted Peccary press release
An ambient music artist who has been recording since 1999, Chris Russell finds his inspiration from both the simplicity of nature and the vast infinity of the universe. When he is using the studio as his instrument, he plays synthesizers (both software and hardware types), bass guitar, and various indigenous instruments to produce fantastically strange textures and abstract paintings of sound. In addition to his solo work, Chris has also contributed multiple tracks to compilation albums. On his bandcamp page there are currently 48 titles of recordings that Chris has created himself, or created in collaboration with other artists, or in some way contributed to compilations, all in the deep listening / atmospheric / cinematic and ambient electronic music genres.
Chris works with various natural (and otherwise) recordings he makes of interesting sounds which he collects and then processes electronically for us to enjoy, adding his unique effects and treatments. His newest album, Destiny, will be available March 27, 2020 from Spotted Peccary Music in CD format and in 24-BIT AUDIOPHILE, CD QUALITY LOSSLESS, MP3 and streaming formats.
I first came upon his album Echo(SPM 3502) last year and it made a big impression on me. The sound is mysterious and hard to describe, I hear dark clouds that reveal hints of large musical objects hidden in gigantic reverberating spaces. Sometimes there are melodic accents, usually there are strange buzzings, whistling things swirling about in the air above, all sorts of unusual but pleasant noises, and always nothing shocking or difficult to listen to or that would otherwise upset the sleepy neighborhood. There are almost no beats and certainly no drums, just wide open magic ear adventures. The whole album is like a strange and wonderful journey through a series of caves, hence the name Echo. Overall this is a great listen if you like mysterious textures! Echo has lots of strange and wonderful electronic audio events that you can crawl right into and get in there and really pay attention to all the fantastic details, or you can allow it to be something to listen to without being pulled away from your chosen thoughts. For me it’s all about odd things to hear in your headphones, which is what I am always looking for.
I interviewed Chris in early March of this year (2020), combining some telephone conversations with follow-up email and texting back and forth to prepare for the celebrated release of Destiny as well as explore some of his notions about the strange world of ambient electronic music.
Your newest album, Destiny, has just been released on Spotted Peccary Music, first of all, Congratulations! You work in a very specialized area of sonic arts. How do you find a way to create something that sounds so completely new on each album?
I usually work on more than one project at once, this time I balanced creating the peaceful music of Destiny with the recently released darker album Presence (2019 Exosphere). I hope it speaks to the spiritual visionaries out there. Creating this new album was very therapeutic, calming and relaxing. I had listeners who enjoy Yoga and Meditation in mind while creating it. Destiny took a lot of creative restraint from me, I kept it on a path of free flowing ambient, not too dark, not too strange, no hard left turns in the music. I am glad I challenged myself that way on this album. I feel it has paid off well for the listener.
Some say that the Greek composer Iannis Xenakis was the inventor of the granular synthesis technique. Xenakis created granular sounds using analog tone generators and tape splicing. Granular synthesis is based on the same principle as sampling, but the samples are not played back conventionally. The samples are split into small pieces called grains. Multiple grains may be layered on top of each other and played at different speeds, phases, volume, and frequency, among other parameters, creating a cloud of sound that is possible to manipulate by varying the waveform, envelope, duration, spatial position, and density of the grains. Many different sounds can be produced.
Granular synthesis was used on this album. Destiny has no field recordings, it is all synthesizers. Destiny was finished over a year ago and I am currently still having fun exploring the sounds created within that zone.
You do it so well, why do you do what you do?
One reason I make Ambient music is to peer behind the veil, as an attempt to explore other realities. I love to go out at night stargazing, staring into the black void on a dark night far away from the light pollution of the city. My music is all about the vast expanse, other dimensions, paranormal, sci-fi themes. Sometimes I imagine that this music is what aliens would like to listen to, riding in their UFOs!
Why don’t we go way back to the beginning? Tell us a little bit about your journey as a composer so far.
I was born in the Peoria, Illinois area and currently live in LaSalle, Illinois with my wife Megan and our two cats Leo and Lulu. I started off with computer based music tools, as the technology evolves I get new plugins, that is what I dive into, I like to keep it all on my personal cutting edge. All my music is DIY (do it yourself), I have had no classes, I watched no YouTube tutorials, I had no training. It’s all just what I have figured out for myself. I started in the early days with two boomboxes, keyboards and a drum machine, I would bounce recorded tracks back and forth to add layers, one box playing and the other recording. Then in 1999, I got a PC with Sound Forge, and another program called Acid, which I currently still use today.
I do not have a background in technical training, I spent about ten years playing and exploring electronic music in my bedroom, not being too serious. My first music released to the public was on mp3.com and then later Myspace Music. MySpace got me in touch with other ambient musicians and helped me get my first record deal on AtmoWorks. My first ambient electronic album I released was titled Aralu.
What do you have on your personal entertainment playlist now, for when you are just getting through your day?
I am currently listening to Lisa Bella Donna, Tame Impala, Lord Huron, Fleet Foxes, Mint Julep, Rush and Led Zeppelin. Music runs in my family My dad’s father Paul was a big band leader. My mother Mary Ann was a piano teacher and my son Gavin is a skilled guitar player who is currently in college for music and performance arts.
The only ambient music I usually listen to is mostly my own, along with Steve Roach, Aphex Twin, Max Corbacho, Alio Die and the late Darshan Ambient. As technology evolves so does the ambient electronic genre.
How on earth do you get your ideas?
Nature is a big inspiration for the art I create. I love to go hiking, going into nature, recharging my creative battery. I feel like I am trying to bring the energy from the forest back into the studio. Inspiration is all around. You have to slow down and observe. I paint a picture in the mind’s eye with sounds, all my tracks usually are, multiple takes stacked together with no composition or planning, for me my music is a mixed media collage that comes to life.
My Dad was a big believer in spiritualism, UFOs, Cryptids and Government Conspiracies, I have seen and experienced things most people have no grasp on. That all influences my deeper dive into creating soundscapes. I feel this is music for the future, I like to think I’m making it for a coming golden age.
With some of the themes on Destiny and Echo I was thinking of it like a Stanley Kubrick film soundtrack.
I just have to ask you some more about Echo, which really made a big impression on me. How did the album come about?
Echo was a big gamble, it seemed too odd and experimental and I was expecting Spotted Peccary to turn it down when I submitted it. But I was thrilled when they decided to put it out. I don’t always know how listeners will respond to what I create. That’s one of the reasons I like to try new things. I just did my first live ambient music concert in November of 2019 in an old clock factory with Kevin Kramer that was recorded and to be released later this year. That performance was my first in a decade.
Kevin Kramer teaches private lessons at the Westclox Music Studios, and creates music with his band, Ahymnsa and is an Illinois Valley music institution.
What are some of your most recent projects?
My most recent release was an EP called Gnostic, in December of 2019 and was made up of recently found lost pieces from the Illuminoid album. The albums Illuminoid and Gnostic have a strong influence of spiritual mysticism.
The Gnostic EP is a collection of newly found and recently finished unreleased music from the Illuminoid sessions. The sounds have an ethereal and very strange choral presence, as if they were sampled from field recordings made in dark ancient cathedrals lit by flickering candles in the wee hours. These tracks date back to 2011 and were misplaced, they were thought to have been lost forever, but now they have been polished and brought into his current catalog.
To me what I hear in some of your music is all about spirits, without any of the old fashioned or possibly corny “haunted house” type sound. Spiritualism is the belief in the real existence of immaterial entities such as angels and ghosts, with séances conducted by famous professional mediums. One of my ancestors was a practicing Spiritualist in the Galveston and New Orleans area back in the late 19th century, so I have a personal perspective on this phenomenon from the past.
I was baptized and raised a Catholic and now I feel like I have an even deeper spiritual level, I do not follow religious dogma, my church is the forest, nature. On the album Echo the last track “Abandoned” contains a recording I made walking through an abandoned house, recording the sounds of my footsteps on the creaking old boards, with the insects and birds in the background, and the sounds of nature reclaiming the old house. This track was a homage to my love of Urban Exploring. In the studio I took the sound of walking and everything and made the track by putting atmospheres around it.
I look at your catalog of albums, your discography and I have to ask you about your incredible production pace, how do you get so much done?
Steve Roach inspired me to always work on 3 or 4 albums at once. Because of that by the time an album gets released I have already moved on down the road to newer music. And have to go back to listen to and get reacquainted with the album close to release.
So… how about the future?
I love collaborating, I wish to do it more, I always pick up new things working with other people. I believe a good collaboration is going somewhere you couldn’t get to yourself. I just recently finished a collaborative album with Philip Wilkerson, that is a follow up to our 2014 release Vague Traces.
Destiny on a personal level is my ten year celebration of releasing my own music, and is a celebration of taking the creative path less traveled that can be both challenging and rewarding.
On Spotted Peccary Music, I feel like my albums are being heard by more listeners, Spotted Peccary are very supportive of my work and helping me grow my audience. I look forward to a long and fruitful relationship with them.
Chris, it is always a pleasure to talk with you, and I very much enjoy listening to your music. Long may you hum and buzz and click and whirrrrrr!
Ambient Electronic Soundscapes from Spotted Peccary Music (SPM 3503)
Slow sustained transforming textures, mystical hissing, sounds of gigantic spaces, things happening in a strange world, never too crowded, there is always lots of room for what goes on. At the heart of each track you’ll find trillions of tiny bits of sound, or grains, and the craft involves manipulating each grain’s duration, pitch and so on, for awesome visualizations in your mind’s eye. It’s not often that you can come across such sonic particles of dust or sand that are being energetically lifted to great heights by a strong and turbulent wind, and then it all calms and you find yourself on a sunrise-gold beach. That is your privilege, listening to Destiny, as you gaze out at this shimmering flower on the horizon, huge over the sea.
If you visit the bandcamp page of Chris Russell, you will find 48 titles on various labels, such as Spotted Peccary, Relaxed Machinery, Disturbed Earth, VoidMusic, earthMantra, Ambient Online, and aatma. Most of these projects are solo albums but a great many are collaborative adventures as well as single track contributions to anthologies. His first ambient electronic album was released in 2009 and titled Aralu, which was made possible through his MySpace account. MySpace got him in touch with other ambient musicians and helped him get that first record deal on AtmoWorks. Lots of things have happened in those cerebral repositories and vaults leading up to his release of Destiny.
What you will hear is always changing, sometimes a strong dry wind blows over the desert that raises and carries along clouds of glittering sand or dust often so dense as to obscure the sun and momentarily reduce visibility almost to zero, then your perceptions are released to see a strange new world through over a billion pure eyes of light. Sometimes the sound is soft and cold, with white snow blowing above the ground like a thick fog blanket of tremendous height, the wind carrying the bitter snow past the singing frozen river, the stiff trees held with cold frost that melts into a dawn chorus of melodic electronic neobirdsongs drifting in, casting a rosy hue across the morning sky and golden fingers of sunlight that light up the scene.
To begin this tripped light fantastic the album opens with “Invitation“ (10:02), evoking an opening transformative soundscape, setting the stage for what is to come next, electronic textures without melodies. With electronics everything is possible and the journey begins well.
Two roads diverge in a modern wood, the sky opens up above, inner space beckons below, we shall take “The Path Less Traveled“ (6:56) looking for a long time at the path going one way, then taking the other path, traveling through a landscape with slow textures and strange sounds unfolding in large reverberating chambers. I hear a subtly scary cinematic soundtrack, dark and lonely in places, perhaps a cathedral organ has been held on one note for all eternity and we are just discovering it now, things are happening in darkness and they might be dangerous, but this is clearly figurative, the interpretation of sound is noted for being complex and (like the road fork itself) potentially divergent.
As these supernatural electronic paths take us on its course we are put up against the surreal world of fate. Fate is the supposed force, principle, or power that predetermines events. No matter how much we attempt to look past fate, it will never flee. “Destiny“ (7:07) the title track, has a slow sustained feeling with sweeping tones and textures in a dark cave. I hear some kind of an unfolding process, building and uncoiling, huge purring creatures down below, lots of open area above, things circling way up there, off in the distance but possibly getting closer, drifting around and around but invisible.
The 17th century French fabulist and poet Jean de La Fontaine once said that “A person often meets his destiny on the road he took to avoid it” which speaks of a mysterious inevitable circular return to what one was actually dodging. “Life Cycles“ (6:15) has a glowing, awakening pattern, with layers of sustained electronic chimes, building slowly. The song title makes me think there will be an overall circular motion but perhaps the sound just gains more altitude. Life is like that, things happen but sometimes the life cycles are imperceptible because we are too close, perhaps when seen from a distance the circular directions become more obvious.
These are the sounds of enlightenment, hidden knowledge, and healing. “Soul Nexus“ (9:52) brings to my mind a connected group or series of windstorms in which large quantities of sand are blown about in the air in varying proximity to the ground. The word nexus comes from the Latin nectere, to bind. Nexus can also mean the central and most important point or place. The sounds are sometimes fading, revealing sustained sheets of grains upon which textures slowly play and evolve, voices coming from the ocean, reverberations coming from hidden caves.
A granularly synthesized sonic event is designed to start and end microscopically in the invisible light of sound, “Density of Light“ (6:36) helps to break us through the darkness, bringing rays of sound, representing the well lit universe, building and layering, getting closer and bigger. Some strange noises emerge from above, then they fade back away, then visit again, like souls calling out. I think that this music is like some kind of magical dust in the wind, eventually returning to a drifting spring equinox of passion.
“Awoken“ (8:37) is the past tense of a word referring to the process of awakening, it has already happened, but for me somehow the dreamstate continues with hissing and reverberating tones and textures, hidden immense spaces echoing in the darkness, and towards the end there is lightening, as if the sun were beginning to dawn again.
Chris Russell has an adventurous approach to his unique art, he has many years of experience starting with his bass and keyboard playing in various touring rock bands such as Syntax Error, followed by about ten years of exploring electronic music in his bedroom, not being too serious. Working alone, painting new pictures with sound, diving deep and figuring out everything for himself, with no technical classes or training, no YouTube tutorials, for all those years he was just making mixed media collages come to life alone in his Sanctum Sanctorum until he had enough of a vocabulary developed to bring his music to our ears, and to occasionally reach out to other musicians to create collaboratively.
This new album has a very therapeutic feeling, calming and relaxing. It is designed to speak to the spiritual visionary’s out there. Listeners who enjoy Yoga and Meditation will enjoy the consistent mysterious and adventurous soundscapes that are never punctured by disruptive surprises or haunted in a sustained way by gloomy darkness. I hear granular ephemeral flurries which bring the times that mark the beginning of twilight before sunrise as clearly and accessibly as ever, I even dare to dream of an adaptive and profound mental and cultural sonic landscape that space aliens would like to listen to, riding in their UFOs. Listen and peer behind the veil, exploring other realities.
2 The Path Less Traveled
4 Life Cycles
5 Soul Nexus
6 Density of Light
Available March 27, 2020 from Spotted Peccary Music in CD format and in 24-BIT AUDIOPHILE, CD QUALITY LOSSLESS, MP3 and streaming formats. https://spottedpeccary.com/shop/destiny/
Artist website: https://voidmusic1.bandcamp.com/
Iannis Xenakis: https://iannis-xenakis.org
Spotted Peccary Album page: https://spottedpeccary.com/shop/destiny/ Spotted Peccary Artist Page: https://spottedpeccary.com/artists/chris-russell/
Release Date Title Label Notes
2009 Aralu Almo Works 2009 Merge Almo Works 7/11/2010 Frozen Relaxed Machinery 3/1/2011 Mechanical Slumber Relaxed Machinery sleepMODE (anthology) 8/8/2011 Home (album 1) Relaxed Machinery 8/8/2011 Home (album 2) Relaxed Machinery 5/12/2012 Bloom Relaxed Machinery 9/29/2012 The Approaching Armada Disturbed Earth 12/20/2012 Borealis Free Floating Music all|is|calm 2012 (anthology) 2/14/2013 Portal Relaxed Machinery 5/4/2013 Twilight Woods Relaxed Machinery Butterfly Effects – James Johnson Recycled (anthology) 5/18/2013 Aralu VoidMusic (re-release) 5/18/2013 Merge VoidMusic (re-release) 1/14/2014 to the far corners Cave Dwellers (Disturbed Earth-pixyblink-Antum7) Disturbed Earth Bubble Juice (anthology) 1/24/2014 Revive Relaxed Machinery reBOOT an rM sampler 2/7/2014 Cosmic Lushness Chris Russell and pixyblink MySpace.com 4/4/2014 Mystic Zones MySpace.com 7/18/2014 Illuminoid Relaxed Machinery 9/30/2014 Particles in Sunlight Free Floating Music Quiet Friends: a 30th anniversary tribute to Steve Roach’s Structures from Silence 11/11/2014 Vague Traces Phillip Wilkerson & Chris Russell Spotted Peccary 12/8/2014 Memory Palace Chris Russell and eyes cast down VoidMusic, Kalindi Music 1/23/2015 Far Past Phillip Wilkerson & Chris Russell Spotted Peccary 28 Spotted Peccary ambient sampler 2/7/2015 Still earthMantra 7/3/2015 Blur Relaxed Machinery 12/18/2015 Goloka earthMantra Orchid (anthology) 4/26/2016 Enki Ambient Online Ambient Online Compilation Vol 6 9/1/2016 Refraction Free Floating Music Reflection (anthology) 10/28/2016 Fallen Draconid Ambient Online Ambient Online Compilation Vol 7 12/17/2016 Spectra earthMantra 2016 Reflections In Transit Chris Russell With Mystified (deactivated) 3/24/2017 Labyrinth Spotted Peccary 5/26/2017 Another Dreary Day Ambient Online Ambient Online Compilation Vol 8 Part 1 10/27/2017 Helix Chris Russell 1/7/2018 to the east of evening (single) anotherAntidote 2/16/2018 Blurred Lines Chris Russell & Disturbed Earth Disturbed Earth 3/19/2018 Ventus earthMantra 4/30/2018 The Rift Ambient Online Ambient Online Compilation Vol 9 Part 1 6/10/2018 Memories of Akhenaten Chris Russell & Dawn Tuesday aatma 9/10/2018 Echo Spotted Peccary 11/30/2018 Spirit of Aten Chris Russell & Dawn Tuesday Unexplained Sounds Group USG anthology 12/7/2018 Moonrise Chris Russell & Erik Norman Chris Russell 3/20/2019 Umbriel Ambient Online 5/14/2019 Presence Exosphere 7/6/2019 Legend of the Moai aatma The Unity by various artists 7/13/2019 Coronium Ore Distorted Void The Black Orb (anthology) 10/18/2019 Föst jarguna and Friends Projekt Trapped Vol 3 (anthology) 12/7/2019 Gnostic Chris Russell 3/27/2020 Destiny Spotted Peccary
Shimmering and floating, dynamic patterns of sequencer-spun urgency eventually give way to lush atmospheres and glowing textures before taking one more giant leap into the next compelling sound immersion, hypnotic rhythms and extensive use of the sound-design capabilities of his instruments–with repeated pitch, filter and effects changes– to render genuine spacescapes. Holmes is creating or discovering music using different tone qualities that breaks free from existing ideas.
Gerald (Jerry) James was born in Cape Girardeau, Missouri, to Coy Hilton James and Aurelia (DeBuchananne) James on February 28, 1945, and he died on February 15, 2020 at his home in Camp Hill, Pennsylvania, surrounded by his family. He is survived by his wife, Frances (Dunn) James, sons Matthew and Nicholas James and his wife, Alicia (Kinter) James, much-loved granddaughters Alexis and Taylor, his brothers, Coy Hilton (Jim) James Jr. and Robin Brintnall James, nieces and nephews and extended family and friends.
He was a vocal proponent of respect for women and abhorred bullying and domestic violence. Although slight in build his entire life, as a middle-aged man, he once placed himself in harm’s way for a neighbor in a domestic violence situation. He was also a staunch, life-long Democrat and would gladly tell you his reasoning behind this stance.
He moved to Albion, Michigan as a child, graduated from Albion High School in 1963 and received his Bachelor’s Degree in History and Economics from Albion College in 1967. He was a member of Sigma Nu Fraternity.
He married Frances Dunn in 1967 in Bethesda, Maryland, the same year he began working for the Aluminum Company of America.
His first son, Nicholas S. James, was born on February 28, 1968 in Pittsburgh, PA. Twins, Matthew B. and Evan M. James were born December 12, 1972 in Seattle, Washington. The family spent many years in the Pacific Northwest, including suburban Portland, Oregon before moving to Pottsville, Pennsylvania in 1984. Gerry left Pottsville in 1989, but returned to Pennsylvania to reconnect with his three sons in 1999.
He was preceded in death by his son, Evan, and his parents Coy and Aurelia James.
Instrumental electronica, with layers loopy and delicate, with components of cycling patterns, with surprising line breaks, with quick, associative leaps, and peppy repetition on this moment of insight or revelation. The music overall has a beat, especially the brighter melodies, it is consistently energetic. With all of its richness and vitality, this day is, in the end just “like any other,” subject to an exotic location and a masterpiece of varied tones and sample sources, such as you might hear from synthesizers, strings and chimes. Electronics zoom in like a telephoto lens to see the dust inside yesterday and then tomorrow, and pulls back to consider the entire, ordinary day in which all these things occur. It also registers the mixture of repetition and variety in everyday life, with its insistence underscored by repetition, to make a declaration about what is valuable, what is worth noticing, because that will so fascinate the listener. It is a day like any other, deliberately leaving open what “it” is meant to refer to, is “it” the meaning of this specific everyday moment? It’s a day like any other, calling us as it explores the complex and moving musical poetics of everyday life at the center of this work.
Darshan Ambient discovers a new, more vital mode of music, one highly attuned to what is happening right in front of our noses, all the time. In a way, he realizes a song could be born simply from paying close attention to the present and immediate, to what was happening outside the window, he turns away from the remote and the antique, and toward the common and familiar. Through his gift we are suddenly aware that this kind of “marvelous” event happens every day, and that only our inattention obscures it from view.
The first track is titled “City of the Seven Hymns” (5:20) and features percussion and synthesizer beats with celestial organ and steel guitar, using precise and fresh images to notate how the listener’s ear perceives the minute and shifting details of an ordinary dusk in an ordinary evening at sunset.
“Ah! Sunflower” (4:01) brings strings and uplifting feelings, the resulting sensation itself serves as both the fruit of that recognition and a recognition about subject matter, about attentiveness to daily life, and about form, with intelligent light.
Flowing out of fragments he chose but might have otherwise never used, “The Echoing Green” (2:56) is a slower darker deeper track to listen and think about, in an associative fashion that is possibly meant to mirror the way consciousness actually moves in daily life, as if concealed in each drop of water is the sea.
Up the pace again with piano sounds including the hammer strikes and reverb pedal wide open, embracing organic form, quotidian experience, and colloquial instrumental language, “Wishful Thinking” (4:33).
“A Little Wool Gathering” (4:38) whimsical with strings bright pace, the listener’s jaw drops open at the wonderful, accidental congruence of this contingent everyday moment. Or so it seems now.
Next the sound is slower and darker, reflective and somber, “He Lamented His Thoughtless Acts” (4:34) echoing the colors of the setting sun in the sky and building facades, vividly etches the gritty details of the urban scene, with dizzy whirls between self and world where the differences blur.
Heavy sustainment systems that allow long term survival, the bare necessities to live another day, behold “LightFighter” (5:11). Here and now I cannot adequately tell you why I like it (I do) and why it works (it does), it features many new textures including passages of backwards sounds, perhaps from a piano. An efficient design, demonstrating the benefits of the element of surprise, lyrical superiority in the air, to simultaneously have superior maneuverability, and to possess suitable melodic effectiveness.
This next track for me allows the present to mingle with memories of the past, in particular. Enjoy glimpses of the “Shadow Lines” (5:23) featuring guitar electronique, expanding loops which seem to effortlessly arrive at this commitment and devotion to the literal and unsymbolic day.
While the reference remains loose and indeterminate, “The Rain Has Flown” (4:49) favors a classical guitar sound, with electric guitar trills and decorations, a bit of steel guitar (country-western style slide guitar sounds) at a moderate pace that is not so up and also not so dark, to conjure up memories of other rhythm and rhyme.
The title song, “A Day Like Any Other” (4:02), has a nice energetic pace, strummed guitars with electric spices, a pronounced beat, a walk on a sunny day’s conclusion which turns the everyday – and everydayness – into its central theme and subject, as well as an object of representation, ‘a day like any other.’
The album’s listening adventure concludes with “The Republic Of Dreams” (4:44) perhaps a bit energetic for a sleep piece but illustrative of positive dreaming, an upbeat tune. It comes in with a quiet feeling and then rises in tempo and pace, to help us find out more, including how to control something marvelous happening, transforming everything. It then occurred to me that this happened more often than not, which catches the composer at the very moment of a conversion to an everyday-life aesthetic.
Michael Allison hales from San Francisco, California. In 1992 after several years as bassist, guitarist, and vocalist, for groups like Nona Hendryx & Zero Cool, Richard Hell And The Voidoids, China Shop and Empty House, he began a solo project using the name Darshan Ambient. The name Darshan is derived from the Sanskrit word darshana meaning something like “sight,” “vision,” or “appearance.” In 2008 his CD From Pale Hands To Weary Skies won Best Ambient Album for the New Age Reporter (NAR) Lifestyle Music Awards. His music has been used in films, documentaries and television commercials.
In an interview on the radio program Echoes (October 2013), Allison reveals that “Growing up with the Beatles and progressive rock, I’m always trying to be progressive with the music that I’m doing and that’s really what I, what I consider myself doing is more progressive music than anything else. And that could be anything. Progressive music could have jazz elements, classical rock, you know, that sort of thing.”
Overall, A Day Like Any Other is an upbeat, melodic and energetic album, positive and well lit, no brooding darkness or strange zones. Most of the songs are a walk on a bright sunny day, moving right along and with a happy feeling, as reflected in the cover art created by Spotted Peccary graphic design master Daniel Pipitone.
1 City of the Seven Hymns 2 Ah! Sunflower 3 The Echoing Green 4 Wishful Thinking 5 A Little Wool Gathering 6 He Lamented His Thoughtless Acts 7 LightFighter 8 Shadow Lines 9 The Rain Has Flown 10 A Day Like Any Other 11 The Republic Of Dreams
Last year was so much better than 2018, and I am most grateful for that. I believe that attitude has everything to do with having a good life. Expectations facilitate feelings of reward or disappointment, satisfaction, or whatever. Existing is often difficult and I hope we can all find our way and never try to force our opinions on others. Of course, good conversation allows for anything!
Thank you Maggie LaNoue for this website and for the various home town websites including AlbionMich.com and AlbionMich.net. Thanks to Frank Passic for his many interests and for his local history articles. I am grateful for having lived most of 2019 in Olympia renting a room in an apartment with my good friend Jeffrey Bartone, in the place where I experienced my most formative years 1977-1995. I am grateful for my friends there and in other places. I am grateful for the medical care and good health I have. I am grateful for my employment at The B Company and the opportunity to create income based on my interest in music, as well as helping Jason Renaud with the Portland Mental Health projects by serving on the Project Council. I am grateful for the opportunity to have served as an opener at the Olympia Food Coop. I am grateful that I had a car!
2019 was a very good year. What could possibly go wrong?
I am now in Pittsburgh, renting a room from my sister-in-law, and I am in a much better position to contribute to the care for my brother as he experiences his transition to the afterlife. I am very grateful that his distress is not acute at this time. I am grateful that my nephews are providing excellent care for him.
The future has always been elusive to my calculations. I know that I must strive to stay alert for opportunities both anticipated and mystical or mysterious. I hope I can become a better writer and to develop more ways to experience happiness and to create income to weather my own future transition to the afterlife. The afterlife is less important to me than the period leading up to that transition. Who will push my wheelchair around?
For now, both the wheelchair and the afterlife seem remote and I am focused on making more of my time and expectations. I love making plans, I do it every day, new plans. Plans are usually abandoned when new circumstances and opportunities arise. I am thinking always that I might have sex today. I might enjoy an excellent meal. I might have a fantastic dream. I might meet someone new. I might have an unplanned adventure. I will discover something new. I have confidence in that. Confidence is self-delusion but it is effective. Life long learning is a good way of life.