Time Travel







Excerpts from the phone interview that aired August 29, 1999
Interview conducted by Bear

Bear: Good morning Richard and welcome to the New Age Sampler. So glad you could take some time to let the listeners find out what's going on in Richard's world.

RB: My pleasure.

Bear: Speaking of Richard's world.....
Quirkworks Laboratory.... sounds mysterious. Can you let us know how that got started?

RB: Well, Quirkworks was started after I left a label in Britain called Survival Records. They wanted to move to more dance material and I wanted to move in a more ambient direction, so I left the label and started my own. I called my studio the laboratory figuring I would just do all my experiments there. That's how Quirkworks was born. It started with a CD called "Quirkwork" almost ten years ago.

Bear: Well, I don't know about my predecessors here at the show but my own and the current listeners first introduction to Richard Bone was via the Hypnos release "The Spectral Ships." I was quite amazed at how diverse your material is because I figured "ah... here's another ambient artist" and then along came "Electropica" and "Coxa".....

RB: And you went "What the heck is this?"

Bear: Well?

RB: There are the two sides to what I was creating, the really ambient thing, and then I started developing a great affection for 60's jazz starting with Bossa Nova. Mike at Hypnos really wanted to put out my ambient work, so I decided that would be the way to do it so people would know that if it was on the Hypnos label, it's going to be the ambient side of me, and if it's on Quirkworks it'll be the more jazzy, rhythmic side.
     There's a new release coming up on Hypnos in about 3 weeks called "Etherdome" which is along the same lines as "Spectral Ships," though not quite as dark. The Etherdome is a place up in Massachusetts General Hospital where anesthetics were first discovered and used, so what I wanted to do was try to capture what it might sound like in that space between consciousness and unconsciousness, as you're going under. That's kind of the mood of "Etherdome."

Bear: I was so struck by the actual space -- that smoky jazz lounge that you were able to get out of your 'digital' laboratory. I even had to snicker that you went back and put some pops and ticks in there.

RB: I did use some actual old vinyl to get sort of a scratchy sound to a lot of the samples. Maybe that's what you're referring to?

Bear: Could be. It had that feel of the late fifties early sixties when I first started listening to music. It was just like a deja view trip back to those days of first being exposed to jazz music.

RB: I'm really glad you got that out of it. I wasn't sure if anyone actually would get that feel from it but that is very much what I was going for. Who knows what'll come after that. I'm working on the follow-up to it now, but it's just beginning to take shape so I don't know quite what it'll be.

Bear: Did I hear a rumor about the ill-fated Jazzbient?

RB: Yeah, I started the concept and then ended up pulling out of it. Although the tracks that everyone else had contributed were wonderful pieces of music, they seemed really schizophrenic when they were put together.  Some of it was more on the ambient side with heavily reverberated, very spacious tracks, and I had been working (based on my love of 60's stuff) a very dry, jazz trio sort of thing and it just didn't seem to work together. I don't know if the other guys are going to continue and put it out on their own; I hope they do because the tracks were wonderful. More than likely what I created for that will wind up on the next project.

Bear: Music entered Richard Bone's life when?

RB: Oh, probably around the womb.

Bear: And you picked up your first instrument at what age?

RB: My first instrument was actually acting. When I left home I moved to New York to study theater (I wanted to be an actor) and I discovered that I'm really god-awful! For one thing, I'm from Georgia so I had a southern accent at the time and I wanted to do Shakespeare. If you've ever heard Shakespeare done with a southern accent, it's really bad! So I bought a piano and started experimenting with it. I loved playing with tape recorders and things, so I would dismantle tape recorders, hook them up to the piano and see what kind of strange sounds I could get out of them. It started to grow from there until I started putting those sounds together in the forms of songs.

Bear: So it actually began more from the producers side in the interest of "how do you get these sounds?"

RB: Yeah... How do I, a non-musician with no musical training at all, write a song? How to get those notes in my head out.

Bear: In that same vein then, what is the inspirational catalyst for Richard Bone when he does write a song?

RB: Well, I guess now it's listening to 60's jazz. A lot of it comes from dreams, from meditation. I always meditate before I go into the studio for at least 15 minutes so I find that's quite a source of inspiration. It seems to come from a sort of netherworld someplace. I really have no idea actually. I often will go back and listen to something that I recorded six months earlier and wonder where did that come from? I have no recollection of doing it - can't even remember how I got those sounds. If I had to re-create anything off of any of the CD's I've done in the last three or four years, I'd just be lost! So many of the settings are just experiments, trial and error - till you hit a patch just the way you want it and you know "that's it!"

Bear: So are you a big computer cruncher of sound?

RB: Not really. I don't use a computer with the music at all. My production technique and point of view is very much influenced by George Martin's approach in the late sixties. I do everything on eight track sequencer. My big thing is spatial placement of sounds, panning left and right. I'm very much into panning things far left, far right or on a good day even bouncing them back and forth. I like a lot of movement in the mix, and the mix is a very important part of what I do.

Bear: In talking to a couple of people I played the old 'what if' an ambient artist were to take sixteen tracks that were sequenced, put them into a mixing board and then send each signal out into an amplifier into studio monitors and move things around so that you could actually pan left and right stereo. Then bring a bass note into the back left corner, walk it across the back, bring it to the front and then pan it across and back where it came from. Then record the whole thing live with mikes that are stereo to two track analog. 

RB: That's funny you would mention that. When I was living in New York I worked with a lot of experimental theater off-Broadway. We did a version of "A Mid Summer's Night Dream" and (as a much more primitive version of what you're saying) when the fairies go into the woods in the play, I wanted to get the sounds of movement in the theater. I didn't have any multi-track equipment but I did have three inexpensive reel to reel players. I created sounds in extreme left and right on each of the two tracks and then buried speakers under the seats of the bleachers so that I could move the sound of the fairies moving through the woods over and under the audience.
     One of the things I've always wanted to do, a fantasy of mine, is to actually score an art exhibit possibly with a photographer or painted art. Maybe create a sound for each painting and when you stand in the middle of the room, they all come together into one harmonious sound. That's a dream of mine to do if I could ever find an artist who would want to do it. I'll put that out there in case any one ever wants to contact me -- I'm here.

Bear: What are the Top 5 most influential albums in Richard Bone's life?

RB: Well, the first thing that comes to mind is the man who really started everything for me  -- Joseph Byrd. The album was called "United States of America" on Columbia. It came out in '68 I think. That record changed everything. It was the first time I'd ever heard any kind of electronics used in a rock setting. The electronics I'd heard before that were very esoteric things. This was sort of a pop-rock structure, but done with very primitive electronics. It just changed everything for me. That would be number one. Two obviously would be his second album called "The American Metaphysical Circus." Then, because of it's production techniques I would have to say the White album.

Bear: That's a popular choice.

RB: Roxy Music was also a big influence on me. Especially the "For Your Pleasure" album. You would think that I would say Eno, but that seems a little too obvious. I'm not sure who I would choose for the fifth one. I guess we could just say anything that Creed Taylor produced in the sixties and just leave it at that.

Bear: There you go. When I get queried by people my last choice would be probably "Road Song," but anything by Wes Montgomery.

RB: Actually I was almost going to say "Tequila" because I really like the sparseness of that album.

Bear: What's your favorite soundtrack?

RB: Soundtrack...hmm.... I don't really have a favorite soundtrack. I've never really enjoyed soundtracks. Without the visuals they never seem to work for me. I don't think I even own a soundtrack.

Bear: What's the author and title of the last book that you read or are currently reading.

RB: The book I'm currently reading is "Practical Kabbalah" by Rabbi Wolf. I'm finding it quite fascinating.

Bear: Introspective yet expanding at the same time.

RB: Yes. As I said before I do meditate daily and have studied some different spiritual practices but I've found so much of that movement is just so cluttered with crystals and incense. This book is just very 'meat and potatoes' spirituality. It doesn't have to be shrouded in all this mystery, all this touchy feely stuff which I feel gets in the way too often.
     Although I'm just getting into these teachings of the Kabbalah, it's very much about the balance between the ability to give and the ability to take care of oneself. Finding that balance is where the happiness and fulfillment is.

Bear: Favorite track for Richard from "Coxa?"

RB: Probably "Outside the Incrimination Field." That disc is my absolute favorite of everything I've done. Seems the most cohesive to me. Maybe because it's still relatively new for me. It's very hard to go back and listen to things that you've done without cringing and wondering why the heck didn't I fix this or that. This one hasn't done that to me. I go back and listen to it and there isn't anything I would change. I'm pretty happy with it all the way through.

Bear: Taking that cue....."Spectral Ships." Which was the hardest track to get done?

RB: Well, I don't remember recording "Spectral Ships." I have no recollection of it whatsoever. "Spectral Ships" was recorded late at night, usually by candlelight in a slightly altered state. I don't mean chemically altered, I mean meditationally altered. It was either all really difficult or all a breeze, but was recorded in an amazingly short amount of time. Whereas things like "Coxa" and "Electropica' took me about a year to do, "Spectral Ships" and "Etherdome" took less than a month.

Bear: Well, there's always been that school of thought where people say "Boy this ambient music...I just don't get it. Are they playing chords or are they just stepping through frequencies and sine waves..."

RB: Well, to be quite frank with you, that type of ambient music doesn't really appeal to me that much. I am a songwriter at heart and melody is everything. If there is no structure and melody, just sort of droning mood pieces, that really doesn't excite me too much. In "Etherdome" you'll hear a series of ambient songs, if anything. They have melody, structure; they have a beginning, a middle and an end as do most of the pieces of "Spectral Ships," but "Etherdome" is even more concise. There's a lot of people doing really wonderful drony stuff. I've tried to do that and invariably melody will start creeping into it. After eight minutes of just an "A" note droning on ....it's like Change the note already!

Bear: Well, we all know how absolutely vast the new age moniker is. I mean if it isn't metal, rock, rap or they don't recognize the instrument, it goes in the new age bin. It's amazing how much material I'm getting that I personally feel belongs more in the rap/trip hop bins than it does in the newage bins.

RB: I actually have been approached by someone asking if I would be interested in doing some sort of hip hop thing with my own twist on it. I had tell them I'd have to think about it. I can't envision it because the one thing I can never do is sit down and say now I'm going to do 'this'. It never turns out to be 'this!' If I sit down and say I'm going to do a ballad, I end up with "A Whole Lotta' Love" sort of thing. It just goes the opposite direction.
     I just thought of what I should say was the fifth album. A sense of humor is really important (as you can probably figure out from "Coxa" and "Electropica") and I got that a lot from Sparks. So I'd say "Kimono My House" and "Propaganda." I thought those records were musically a lot of fun and lyrically brilliant. I don't know if you've heard the story of how "Electropica" came into being.....

Bear: I don't think so.

RB: One day I was in a record store and there were bunches of teenagers everywhere. In order to avoid them, I went through the jazz section. As I went down the isle Antonio Carlos Jobim's cd "Wave" literally fell out of the bin and landed on my foot! As I looked at it I noticed this really cool cover with a giraffe that had been colored and processed. I was so struck by it I knew it had to have landed on my feet for a reason. I brought it home and didn't take it out of my cd player for  three months! That changed everything for me. Once I heard his structure, his rhythm and his melody, that was it. I was hooked. That was how "Electropica" came into being. That's why the song on the album is called "Waveland." It's dedicated to him from the album "Wave."