Richard Bone has released five
recordings in the last five years, which fall
into two different categories. Electropica,
Coxa and Ascensionism are the jazz-based CDs
on Bone’s Quirkwork label, and Spectral Ships
and Etherdome are on the Hypnos label. Like
many other artists who now compose and record
instrumental and ambient music, Bone got his
start in rock, but now finds inspiration for
his music in sources as diverse as mysticism
and Latin jazz.
Ascensionism is No. 1 this month on the NAV
Charts. That has got to feel good. .
This is the first time any of my work has
reached No. 1 on the NAV charts. I am
absolutely thrilled and grateful to all the
stations that took a chance on a recording
that really didn’t neatly fit within the
traditional New Age parameters. I also must
acknowledge that I could not have done it
without the expert help of Ed Bonk and Lazz
Promotions in Toronto. I, frankly, just don’t
have the chutzpah to get on the phone and ask
people to just give it a listen.
Why the two different styles?
It’s like two
different sides of my personality. I love the
spacey textures of ambient, but I started out
as a songwriter, so the structure of
songwriting, where you have a beginning, a
middle and an ending, still appeals to
Is there a difference in the way you
compose your ambient and jazz
Yes. I always compose my ambient music
after dark, by candlelight; the jazz during
the daylight, sunny hours. The ambient
recordings were the first music I did without
rhythm. It doesn’t offend me if people refer
to it as background music. Music is something
that embraces your day, not some biblical,
important thing that demands all your
structurally? Jazz tends to be very
structured, where New Age can be very
The type of jazz that has influenced me,
which is centered on melody as opposed to
freeform improvisation, doesn’t seem to be all
that distant from New Age. That is probably
why the melding of jazz stylings with New Age
can often work. The first time I heard a
marriage of the two was on the two Zeus Faber
discs. It was a combination of warm synth pads
and soaring sax lines. It can also result in
breathtaking ambient beauty as on the two
Astral Jazz discs by Radha Sahar. For me it
always comes back to melody and song
structure. Whether it’s on my recent jazz
influenced trilogy or my strictly ambient
works, I strive to create something that has a
clearly defined melody line running through
How long have you been interested in
I wasn’t interested in it until 1995. I was
a rock purist, originally working in the synth
pop band Shox Lumania back in the early ’80s
doing music with synths and lyrics, with a
Depeche Mode sort of sound. One day I was
walking through the record store to check out
what’s new, and a group of girls were standing
around talking, blocking the aisle, so I went
up a different aisle. An Antonio Carlos Jobim
CD fell out of the rack and landed on my foot.
I picked it up and looked at it. I thought it
was a pretty interesting coincidence. I didn’t
know anything about his music, but I liked the
art on the cover, so I bought it. When I
played the music I just loved it. So then I
started listening to more jazz, especially
Brazilian music and piano trios from the ’60s.
One of the things I noticed about the piano
trios is how they would sometimes be augmented
with congas. I love that sound. There is a
warmth in the music from that period that I
don’t hear in most contemporary jazz, so
that’s the feeling I was trying to capture on
my recordings. Each one has a different
primary influence. Electropica was primarily
influenced by Jobim and the Brazilian sound.
Coxa was influenced mostly by ’60s jazz.
Ascensionsim was influenced by my recent
interest in Buddhism and Kabbalah.
Buddhism and Kabbalah influenced your
has led me to these subjects. With meditation,
just sitting in silence allows feelings to
arise, intuitions, feelings that have always
been with me, but I never recognized them.
With my ambient compositions, I don’t try so
hard to compose, I just get myself into a
frame of mind and let the compositions flow. I
can just close my eyes and go.
Is it every
jazz man’s goal to try to make a great album
like Miles Davis’ Kind of Blue?
I don’t consider myself a jazz musician by
any strict means of the imagination. The
trilogy had a jazz flavor because that’s what
I had started listening to at home. It just
worked it’s way into my subconscious. But I’m
not really listening to jazz much these days.
My influences are always in a constant state
of flux. These days, in the Jeep, I listen
exclusively to classical. So for all I know
there could be a Bachbient album waiting in
You have a
live performance coming up?
Yes, there is
a series of concerts known as “The Gathering”
in Philadelphia, which are played in churches.
A lot of well known people in ambient music
have played this event before. People are
encouraged to come and get comfortable, bring
a blanket or whatever and the music can go on
for a long time. My performance, which is
titled Indium, will include film and spoken
word. The artist I’m working with is from
Providence, so we will do a show there first
in an art club in preparation for the
Will there be
interested in perhaps doing a few more,
perhaps Chicago, maybe the Southeast and the
West Coast. Nothing is arranged yet, but I’m
thinking about it. I’d like to. Art galleries
are more the appropriate space for my music
than rock clubs.
Will your performances be solo or do you
have a band?
All of my
music is me, even the jazz albums. It’s
amazing what you can do with samples. I
haven’t been in a band since the early ’80s.
My shows will be solo performances.
Do you like
performing live, and how long exactly has it
I haven’t performed since the New York days
with Shox Lumania in 1980-81. So it will be
almost 20 years since I’ve taken to the stage
next spring. I always enjoyed performing but
found it difficult to constantly deal with a
band mentality. Back then the technology and
really audience mindset didn’t exist for
performing solo ambient.
nervous yet because my attention is on the
completion of new projects, but I’m sure that
the night of the first performance I’ll be
You have your
own record label Quirkworks Laboratories, but
you are also signed to Hypnos. . .
After I left the band in NYC, I was signed
as a solo act to Survival/Chrysalis UK. I
recorded 2 LPs and several singles for them in
the synth-pop vein. The label wanted me to
release more dance material and I wanted to
move in more experimental directions. So I
started my own label, Quirkworks Laboratories.
I never expected to work within the confines
of another label again, but I have to say that
Mike Griffin at Hypnos has given me wide
parameters for my ambient works The Spectral
Ships, Etherdome, and the new one releasing
next year, Tales from the Incantina. It seems
like a good idea, at least for the time being,
to release my rhythmic work on Quirkworks and
the ambient work on Hypnos. I’ll also be
releasing a work heavily influenced by the
’60s use of backward loops under the pseudonym
Mind Flower Society on Quirkworks. I think the
best way to describe it would be psychedelic
What sort of
music do you listen to on a day-to-day
Right now, I
really like the music of Harold Budd and
Reuben Garcia. Their dreamlike surreal
qualities inspire me. But when I’m really
working, I don’t listen to
your first instrument?
No. At first I was an actor, and I stunk.
So one day I bought a guitar and learned to
play it. I wasn’t really very good at that
either. Then later on, I got an old piano and
learned how to play it. Then I discovered
synthesizer, and with a synthesizer, you are
really only limited by your imagination, so
that really is my favorite instrument. I’m
self-taught on all the instruments.
What are the
inspirations for Etherdome and Spectral
Ships is named after the famous ghost
ships—all based on real stories. Etherdome is
about the first hospital where ether was used
for anesthesia, and that’s what they call the
place “the Etherdome.” My follow up to
Etherdome (Tales from the Incantina) is based
on the work of a Toltec shaman, Don Miguel
A long time
ago Keith Richards, of all people, said
something that stuck with me. He said ‘All the
music that will ever be is already out there.
All we have to do is put our antenna up and
tune in.’ Who would have ever thought of him
as a guru, but I guess he was just having one
of his clear moments.