(Interview conducted by David Opdyke)
Going Under the Gas with Richard Bone
new knowledge and forms of expression, Richard
Bone has given listeners a diverse and
widely-ranging body of work, from the electronic
music of The Eternal Now to the more-ambient
Spectral Ships to the exotic electro-jazz sounds
of Coxa and Electropica, to name only a few. He
often releases on his own Quirkworks label, as
well as on Hypnos.
disc, Ether Dome, thematically captures the
essence of consciousness slipping away under the
anesthetizing effects of ether. We thank him for
joining us and contributing his time, thoughts and
Tell us about your visit to the actual Ether Dome.
At what point did you realize you had a
Bone: I first
heard the name while chatting with a friend who is
a physician. The name just caught my ear and
conjured up images of souls drifting in and out of
consciousness. The actual Ether Dome in Boston has
a high domed ceiling, is circular and has wooden
bleachers on one side. The strangest thing is that
it's really more of a theater than what we would
think of as an "operating room". The reason being
that many professionals came to view these
procedures. A very surreal place
What were your goals with Ether Dome and how did
you achieve them?
Bone: My goal was
to create a soundtrack for losing consciousness.
That's why I recorded the disc between midnight
and sunrise as I was approaching an altered state
of awareness myself.
They don't still use ether, do they?
Bone: I'm not a
doctor but I play one on CD! No. I don't think
it's used anymore.
Does that mean the disc is also somehow
nostalgic as tomorrow.
all know that Gilbert Abbott (The Induction of
Gilbert Abbott) was the first etherized guinea
pig, and that Letheon (The Letheon Men) was a
temporarily-used brand name of ether (Oh all
right... I had to do some web research first!). Do
the other track titles fit in so
Bone: I had those
two titles after visiting the actual site. the
rest I created by automatic writing. I envisioned
the EtherDome in my mind's eye, then just started
writing. In about 10 minutes I had written down
about 20 phrases. These were then edited down into
the titles you see.
the current Ether Dome exhibit, do they mention
the strife (animosity, failure, insanity, suicide
and throwing acid on a prostitute) that befell
ether's "founders"? (I read this at
Obviously, you kept your sounds on the "lighter"
side, but do I detect some underlying darkness,
and where might that spring from?
Bone: I'm not
aware of the above references but perhaps you
could do research for me in the future. The only
"darkness" I intended was based on the
apprehension that one/I felt as my reality slipped
Ether Dome isn't your first "thematic" ambient
excursion; How did the inspiration for The
Spectral Ships come about? How did you research
Bone: I was
reading an obscure poem somewhere and came across
the phrase. I had already recorded one or two
pieces for an, as yet, untitled work. I knew they
had a slightly foreboding feel to them, so when I
saw the phrase it just all came together. The rest
of the disc was finished in about a week after
that. I read the book, Folklore & The Sea, for
additional inspiration and then researched the
names of actual lost, ghost ships which became the
Then there are your Tropical/Jazz/Lounge-style
releases like Coxa and Electropica? Do they come
from different part of your creativity?
Bone: You might
say the come from my daylight mind. Lately I've
been listening exclusively to jazz during the day,
while the ambient works come from my twilight mind
That is to say, the feeling one has when waking up
out of a most vivid dream.
you tell us what to expect with
Bone: Only that
it will be a departure from Coxa &
Electropica. I have been profoundly moved by my
recent Kabbalah studies. The mystical qualities of
those writings combined with my recent travels to
Greece & Egypt will be evident.
did you get into your Kabbalah studies, and how
will this affect your music?
Bone: My study of
kabbalah as well as other personal disciplines are
simply the result of a thirst for knowledge. In
the past I have felt that my life, and
composition, were being guided. That somehow ideas
were flowing from a greater "well." These studies
have begun to allow me to consciously tap into
this vast collective. Really, it's just advice,
guidance and inspiration that's available to all
of us all the time. It is just that only recently
has humankind started to become aware of it, as
traditional religions begin to fall away having
served their great purpose. So, in fact, I have no
idea where this will lead me musically but I am
looking forward to the journey.
you share some of those experiences
Bone: I simply do
not know the words to convey the feeling that I
experienced as I stood inside the King's Chamber
within The Great Pyramid of Giza. But there was a
strong sense of coming home. I expected the same
kind of feeling at the Acropolis but instead there
was a strong sense of "I've never seen this
before." There was no connection. On the other
hand, while standing inside the Coliseum in Rome
just after sunrise I was startled by the vivid
impressions I was receiving. Again, this is not
any new age hokus pocus, we all have these things
within us. We're just conditioned not to use
originally entered music via the theatre; can you
describe those early days of
discovered that my acting abilities were
questionable. Hamlet shouldn't be a comedy! But
because I had always been playing with sound,
experimental musics, I was asked to do sound
design for several off Broadway productions. I had
found my passion...sound.
What were some of your early (theatre/sound)
projects? What lessons did you learn from those
experimental works although I did create sound for
an especially twisted production of "Suddenly Last
Summer." Mostly I came away with a sense of how to
use nonmusical sounds to set a mood.
you still involved in theatre works today? If so,
Bone: I will
always have a deep love for theater. I would love
to work on a new production if the right project
should come along. A dear friend on the west
coast, who is film maker, has recently made a few
interesting proposals. All I'll say right here is
that it involves animation.
it scoring the next Pokemon
What was it like when you were touring and
recording with Shox Lumania in the early
Bone: Those were
the halcyon days of "new wave". Since we were the
darlings of the NYC underground, they were amazing
times. Again, it was a VERY theatrical band with
as much emphasis on choreography and costume as
music. The few recordings we made were never able
to translate the stage show very well. Although it
was a great experience, I found I was approaching
burn out quickly. I had started recording 4 track
demos in my house and one of these, "Digital
Days", was picked up by Survival Records UK. So I
left the band, and signed with Survival for 5
years where I released 2 LPs and countless singles
in the mid 80's.
were your "new wave" influences at that
produced by Martin Hannet and on the Factory (UK)
What was your own sound like?
Bone: Devo meets
Ziggy Stardust as played by Bauhaus.
Since then, you tend to work alone; is there any
compelling reason for this?
Bone: I'm anti
also overviewing The Eternal Now this month; what
can you tell us about that recording with its
"zones" and "pages"?
Bone: The Eternal
Now is actually my most personal recording. I was
reemerging after a period of personal lows. The
music was completely improvised and recorded by
the light of only two candles. Again it was
recorded in the twilight hours. The Millennium
Pages on the insert was recorded at the base of a
mountain in New Hampshire while I was accompanying
a friend on a skiing weekend. I had sat down in
the snow, leaning against a huge tree with a
notebook in my lap. About an hour passed and when
I looked down at the page, I had written something
called The Millennium Pages. I have no memory of
writing it, however.
Does this "automatic writing" occur with your
music as well? (Does this auto-pilot behavior ever
happen while you're going about your daily
business, or driving?)
Bone: Only in as
much as I live intuitively. If I'm driving along
and I get a sense of "turn right" I always honor
it. Without fail I discover something new. A music
store I didn't know, a work of art, a quaint
little park or maybe an especially moving
immigrant shopkeeper so grateful for what she/he
has that I am moved. I try to honor every
Speaking of the "Millennium", what do you think of
all the ongoing hype?
Bone: Madison Ave
is a well oiled machine! What's the worst that
could happen? We spend a few hours by candlelight
actually talking to one another? Could be a
blessing in disguise.
You've got a big fan in Marleen with her
devotional Richard Bone website; is she someone
you actually know, or just a fanatical
Bone: Both now.
Her support, however, has meant more to me than
she will ever know. Does art exist if there is no
one to appreciate it? Perhaps, but her enthusiasm
as well as the support of those who visit the
site, encourage me to continue to create and
What's the scoop on Distillation? Is it out
Distillation just arrived on my doorstep
yesterday. It is available through Halcyon
Recordings in Boston. The disc is a re-mastered
compilation of my recordings before Electropica.
The re-mastering has breathed new life into these
works. I was astounded when I heard them. Most
people find it odd, but I want no part of the
mastering process. It has always been my
philosophy to find people you trust and then let
their individual talents shine through. This
approach never fails. Distillation, by the way,
also contains two unreleased ambient
Besides Ascensionism, do you have any specific
recording plans for the future?
projects on the drawing board, but for now I am
What advice can you offer to beginning
Bone: Honor the
universe in which we live. Ask for the moon and
expect to get it. By that I mean be true to
yourself. Follow your heart's desire and never let
anyone dissuade you.
Many thanks for sharing your time and words,
Richard. Anything you'd like to add?
Bone: 42 + 27 =