Time Travel







A Conversation Between Richard Bone & Jamie Bonk

       Richard Bone is an artist with an incredibly diverse past. Among many, many things he's studied drama, played in the legendary band Shox Lumania, hung out with the likes of Klaus Nomi, Souixie Souix, David Bowie and Devo, recorded and released his own label and had the video for his single "Alien Girl" included on "Danspak", an experimental Sony video. And all of this was before his musical interests started shifting away from the 80's New Wave club scene!

     In 1991, Richard started his own label, Quirkworks Laboratory Discs, allowing him the freedom to create music of a more experimental nature and remain in control of his musical direction. Richard is a prolific composer, releasing records for his own label and several other labels including Hypnos.

     His August 2000 release "Ascensionism" did phenomenally well on the NAV Airwaves Top 100 chart. The album held the #1 spot for two months and stayed in the Top 10 for 4 consecutive months. Richard's latest ambient project "Tales from the Incantina" (released April 2001) debuted at #6 on the NAV Airwaves Top 100 chart.

For more info and to check out Richard's discography, please visit his web site.

Jamie: Change is very important to me as an artist, but lately I've been looking back on some records (particularly old pop/rock stuff) that I had set aside. I'm enjoying listening not in a nostalgic way, but from seeing the music in a new light. Do you ever revisit albums that at one time inspired you?

Richard: Most definitely. The work which changed everything for me, my "holy grail," was released in the late 60's on Columbia Records. Led by experimentalist/composer Joseph Byrd, THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA blended early electronics with rock. It completely changed the way I viewed music and caused me to say "that's what I want to do." It was recently released on CD. I listen to it at least once a week if not more. I have gone through 2 copies of the vinyl.
One of the greatest thrills of my life has been to actually contact Joseph Byrd and tell him how much he meant to me. We have been in constant communication ever since. A couple of years ago he sent me the original lead sheet to one of the songs on that Columbia LP with a wonderful inscription. It now hangs in my studio.

Jamie: That's just great! I don't know Joseph Byrd, but I'll definitely check him out. What is it about his music that "completely changed the way" you viewed music?

Richard: At the time (late 60's) even the most underground of bands were still all about either jangly or fuzzed out guitars. I wanted to hear these fantastic sounds I was hearing in all my sci-fi films incorporated in contemporary music. I knew it could be done but it wasn't until I bought a copy of THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA that it all came together. It was like The Lady of the Lake had risen out of the murky Gibson Sea had handed me a vinyl Excalibur. It was that dramatic for me. The drums were electronic, the sounds swirling all around me were electronic. There were tape loops and processed vocals. Yet still, underneath it all, it WAS still rock and roll. And what great songwriting talent on top of it all. If it had just been a lot of knob twiddling and no compositional skill, I wouldn't have pay it much attention. But even today, over 30 years later, the songs are still there.
That's when it all began for me. It was as if someone had said to me, "No you're not insane. These dreams and ideas you've been attempting are now not only possible but viable."

Jamie: I think one of the most challenging things in music is combining different styles or genres. I've never liked the "forcing" of elements together and music that does that feels contrived to me. But, it's absolutely amazing when someone, in being true their own aesthetic, combines several seemingly unrelated styles into one piece of music. This is what I'm after. I listen to a lot of music and try to absorb it on an unconscious level and then follow my own voice.
When you're listening to music do you listen analytically or more intuitively/unconsciously?

Richard: It depends. If I'm listening as a matter of research, as I am now with Balinese music or with Bossa Nova for Electropica, then I listen very analytically. But only for a short time. Studying for too long a period moves beyond absorbing the form and tends to lead to imitation rather than impression.
Other than that I rarely listen to music when I'm alone! Melodies and movements are constantly creating themselves in my mind. When I'm not actively working on those ideas in the studio, I find the only thing that will silence the din is the spoken word. Therefore I have stacks of books on tape and DVD/Laserdiscs. If I try to listen to music other that at specific times, it becomes as irritating as fingernails on a chalkboard for me because it is clashing with everything happening between my ears. I have discovered, very recently, that keeping a small personal recorder nearby helps to get those ideas out of my head and down on paper. I suppose you could call it an aural lobotomy. OK, Mr. Bone, the doctor will see you now!

Jamie: Well, whatever works!! I know what you're saying about music clashing with what's in your head. When I'm composing, I'm always thinking about music. To the point that I'll wake up in the middle of the night with music playing in my head. The challenge for me is to get that sound and that feel recorded. The reality is that I've never fully achieved getting those sounds out! Do you feel that you've ever recorded the sounds that you initially hear in your imagination? Any specific pieces that stand out?

Richard: No, and I've learned not to try. I finally realized that what was coming to me in dreams was not meant to be copied note for note. That simply doesn't translate. What was being sent to me were a series of ideas, impression, feelings and hunches that I then could go explore without becoming frustrated that I couldn't get the idea down note for note. It was a very liberating experience. Now I just acknowledge that an idea has arrived, I'm grateful for it, and I just go on my merry way. Often artists tend to way over think things. Sometimes "good enough" and "almost there" are exactly what the piece needs to be. Forcing yourself to go further can damage the piece and make it stale and plodding.

Jamie: When I'm composing, it's usually out of the studio. I mainly compose at the guitar or piano, but sometimes just thinking about music away from an instrument works best. It allows me a certain freedom that I can't get any other way. Sometimes the melody comes first, sometimes it's a chord progression or rhythmic idea. How do you write? Do you start with a concept, a sound, a melodic, rhythmic or harmonic fragment?

Richard: I suppose the best way to describe it would be by comparing it to a sculptor staring with a piece of simple rock and releasing the form that lies within. I never start with a preconceived idea. Often I will have a very general idea of what the project will be (ambient, jazzy, floating, rhythmic) but that's as far as the planing goes. It's always a matter of just sitting at the keyboard, clearing my mind, and see what arrives. That's also the same way I handle the overdubs. I don't go in knowing that "what the piece really needs is X." I just improvise around what I've already laid down until that little feeling in the pit of stomach jumps up and says "that's it." That inner voice never fails. Sometimes I forget to trust it completely, but it never fails.

Jamie: The times that I don't trust my intuition are usually a nightmare in the studio or on stage. Lately, I've been thinking about the shape of the line that I'm playing more than a note's relationship to the harmony or rhythm. I'm finding that by letting go of an individual note the whole line becomes freer and communicates my feelings better. For the last little while, I've been moving more to a holistic approach to music. I think of everything that the listener hears as being part of the whole -- from the composition to the performance to the production to the engineering. Every part that makes up the sound that comes out of the speakers (either on record or live) really matters to me. One thing that I admire about your music is your attention to sound design and sound quality. Was this something you were always interested in?

Richard: Absolutely! I think, even as a preteen, I was more interested in the sound design coming out of the speakers than I was the actual song. That is one of the many great blessings that resulted from being a child of the 60's. There was so much experimentation in sound (and everything else) occurring then. I listened to everything with headphones trying to dissect every little sound and learning about placement in the overall sound spectrum. The shear production genius of George Martin, Lou Adler, Alan Lorber, Creed Taylor and engineers like Eddie Kramer and Rudy van Gelder continue to influence me every day.

Jamie: Any tips for getting your great sounds down on tape?

Richard: Well, everyone needs to develop and nurture their own style, but for me it's all about just letting go. I've done the homework in the sense that I've listened to the best. Their work is a part of me. Their sound is the Holy Grail for which I aim. So with that in mind I create a rather clear vision in my mind of the way I want to project to feel and sound. Then, as I mentioned, I just let go. I have no musical training so I'm not burdened down by a little voice in the back of my head that says, "Sorry pal, that's not musically correct." I work completely of feel. I've also found that, for me, working completely on headphones (at a relatively low volume) is a way to truly get "inside" the music. Then as the track nears completion, I make a reference CD and listen to it on the main speakers in my living room. Why? Because this is where I listen to all the rest of the music in my life. When I've achieved a mix that sounds right in the headphones AND the main speakers, then I know I'm done.

Jamie: That's pretty much what I do too! I need at least two sets of speakers to check out my mixes. Also, in mastering I like to listen to the mixes on a number of speakers. I think of it as looking at something from different perspectives -- sometimes you notice a sound or a balance that you didn't before.
I've been doing a fair amount of live music lately and I'm loving it! I hope to keep on playing live for at least the next six months to a year. What's up for you? Any new recordings? Gigs?

Richard: No live work on the horizon. I'm still looking for a painter or photographer whose gallery show I could score. That's been a dream of mine, but I've yet to find the right artist.
I'm in the studio now working on a new project which will have a middle eastern/oriental flavor. I'm being extremely meticulous with this one for some reason. Considering every sound I use, but still trying to work from intuition and not over think things. I'm very pleased with the tracks that have emerged so far. The working title is "Absolute East".

Jamie: Sounds great -- I can't wait to hear it! Thanks for taking the time to talk about your music.

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