Time Travel







New Age Voice Magazine
 - Interview by Dan Liss
(November 2000 Issue)

     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.

NAV: Congratulations! Ascensionism is No. 1 this month on the NAV Charts. That has got to feel good. . .

Bone: 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.

NAV: Why the two different styles?

Bone: 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 me.

NAV: Is there a difference in the way you compose your ambient and jazz recordings?

Bone: 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 attention.

NAV: What about structurally? Jazz tends to be very structured, where New Age can be very unstructured.

Bone: 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 it.

NAV: How long have you been interested in jazz?

Bone: 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.

NAV: How have Buddhism and Kabbalah influenced your compositions?

Bone: My curiosity 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.

NAV: Is it every jazz man’s goal to try to make a great album like Miles Davis’ Kind of Blue?

Bone: 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 the wings.

NAV: You have a live performance coming up?

Bone: 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 Philadelphia show.

NAV: Will there be other shows?

Bone: I am 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.

NAV: Will your performances be solo or do you have a band?

Bone: 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.

NAV: Do you like performing live, and how long exactly has it been?

Bone: 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.

NAV: Are you nervous?

Bone: I’m not 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 terrified.

NAV: You have your own record label Quirkworks Laboratories, but you are also signed to Hypnos. . .

Bone: 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 ambience.

NAV: What sort of music do you listen to on a day-to-day basis?

Bone: 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 anything.

NAV: Was piano your first instrument?

Bone: 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.

NAV: What are the inspirations for Etherdome and Spectral Ships?

Bone: 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 Ruiz.

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.