Time Travel







Piero Scaruffi's Rock Interviews
(Copyright © 1998 I/E Magazine)

Richard Bone

Born in Atlanta, Georgia, during the early 1980s Richard Bone was among the protagonists of the New York avantgarde scene, but it took him ten years to gain the recognition he deserves as an electronic musician. His career has recently revealed signs of impending schizophrenia, partly drawn towards Brian Eno's quirky electro-pop songs and partly fascinated by the fashionable ambient bandwagon.

How did you end up in New York in the first place? And how did you connect with the musical scene there?

"My formal training started in theatre. I studied four years at the New York Academy in the early seventies. At the same time I was listening to any recordings I could get my hands on containing early electronic/tape manipulation works. I was fascinated by the idea of creating music in this form. I would collect small reel to reel tape recorders and completely re-wire their circuits creating my own tape generated "songs" and loops. About the same time I started creating sound design for several off-Broadway companies working in mostly experimental theatre."

Was that the experience that motivated you to become a musician?

"At the time I had also gone through several copies of an LP entitled "THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA". For me it was the first time I had heard cutting edge electronics used in a rock format. That band, led by Joseph Byrd (his solo works were also very influential) led me to start my own band using very primitive synths and an early drum machine straight out of a Holiday Inn cocktail lounge. Probably explains my current fondness for lounge music. I recorded an early demo produced by Lenny Kaye, and continued playing to less than avante crowds up and down the east coast. This led to a keen sense of self preservation and the ability to avoid flying objects from multiple angles. I knew I was on to something!! Then two more interesting things happened. First, in 1982, I joined the NYC theatrical band, SHOX LUMANIA. We had the first cassette release on the ROIR label, "Live at the Peppermint Lounge" Second,I recorded and release a solo 7" Digital Days which was quickly picked up by Survival Records in the UK. Survival was a label created by UK electro-popsters DRINKING ELECTRICITY. I stayed with Survival four several years releasing two LPs, BRAVE TALES and EXPECTABLE, and a few singles ("Digital Days", "The Beat Is Elite", "Joy Of Radiation", "The Real Swing"). These recordings were more in the pop style, so on my own I recorded two more experimental works. EMERGING MELODIES was the soundtrack to a video art project which eventually aired on USA cable. ALTERNATE MUSIC FOR THE HINDENBURG LOUNGE was released on the AMERICAN MUSIC COMPILATION on the Eurock label."

What has been for you the legacy of your studies and your experiments in the avantgarde?

"The legacy of my studies is a trail of twisted, mutated sound devices bearing little to no resemblance to their original form. Artistically, I hope there is evidence of a man seeking musical experimentation without audience alienation".

Bone's mature career started in 1993. QUIRKWORK took to the studio in the vein of Eno's "Taking Tiger Mountain", crafting melodious and stirring themes with the skills of a technological wizard and the attitude of a metaphysical jester. That early masterpiece was followed by the inferior X CONSIDERS Y, notwithstanding memorable tunes like "Lipstick On Your Collar".

"At the time I was drawn more and more toward ambient work so eventually left SURVIVAL UK and started QUIRKWORKS LABORATORY. The first two albums were my attempt to continue where I had left off with Survival Records. At that time I still considered music with words to be my primary endeavor. Although AMBIENTO was recorded in between these two, it wasn't until THE ETERNAL NOW that I decided to pursue instrumental/atmospheric music solely. I actually feel that X CONSIDERS Y would be a much more interesting work without the vocal tracks. My personal favorite tracks from QUIRKWORK and the X/Y are "Last Days Of Heaven" and "My Favorite Surrender".

AMBIENTO's eponymous symphony in eight movements marked Bone's conversion to ambient and cosmic music, albeit from a more psychological, subliminal perspective than your average Eno/Schulze epigone.

"As I said, since AMBIENTO came about as a respite between QUIRKWORK and X/Y, I was traversing uncharted territory. I had only scratched the surface of ambient music (as a listener) although I still listened to the pioneering works of Varese, Cage, Xenakis, Dockstader and of course Joseph Byrd. So the disc is basically my answer to the question "what would I like to hear?" I wanted to create a piece of music that didn't demand your full attention. It could rest peacefully in the background but could also survive closer scrutiny."

An even sharper turning point, VOX ORBITA steered towards a surreal tone, halfway between the psychedelic soundscape of the United States Of America and Laurie Anderson's detached musichall. Blessed with the most sophisticated production technique of Bone's career, the album sailed through an impressive range of lush arrangements.

"That album was recorded almost entirely using an EMU MORPHEUS. I was enjoying the slightly harder edged sounds. I didn't want to use any of my own voice, but was at a loss to find suitable sampling sources. I hit upon the idea to sample pieces of songs that I had recorded for other artists over the past year or two. In some cases I would call Mary Zema or Meb Boden and ask them to recite a certain passage into my answering machine. I would then lift and process the sample from there."

THE ETERNAL NOW contains two suites, "Zone" and "The Millennium Pages", which effectively merged the two aspects of Bone's art. Ambient's tranquil stasis and cosmic music's grandiose visions, imbued with solemn, touching melodies, turn "Zone" into a summa of contemporary electronic styles. It is likely to be considered by many an artistic peak. "Pages" revealed yet another side of Bone's fluent musical language; the one reaching back to medieval, renaissance and baroque music.

"The recording of these two pieces are extremely personal to me. I had ended a ten-year relationship, and faced my abusive love of a certain russian beverage. Alone and sober for the first time in many years, my thoughts turned inward. I started a journey into the mystic (which continues today). I recorded THE ETERNAL NOW only after sunset, by candlelight. Without sounding too "new age", the tracks were recorded in states of deep meditation, and largely improvised. It was almost as if the sound modules were programming themselves. It remains my favorite work, although the memories of actually recording it are almost non-existent."

The next project was supposed to be SOLO COG, a concept which is partially ambient soundscape and partially more electronically structured pieces. For reasons unknown to this interviewer, the SOLO COG project has been indefinitely shelved (though completed as an EP). Instead a new disc, A SURVEY OF REMEMBERED THINGS, was recently released.

"It contains five new tracks of mine (not the SOLO COG tracks) and four by keyboardist/percussionist John Orsi. I was quite pleased with the disc as it shows a slightly darker side of my work."

Finally, ELECTROPICA, the brand new release, certain to catch off guard the ambient aficionados as much as it will intrigue the weirdos of dance electronica.

"In the summer of 1996 (and through a rather mystical occurance) I fell in love with 1960's bossa nova and Antonio Carlos Jobim in particular. I devoted the next year of my life to recording my electronic impressions of that style. The result was over twentyfive tracks of "atom age bossa", ten of which appear on ELECTROPICA. For me there is something quite magical in these tracks perhaps because they seem to show that all electronic music need not be somber and serious. The tracks are mysterious and fun simultaneously. Although my peers may think I've lost my mind, I have never felt more creatively alive."

Well, you can't accuse him of running out of ideas. Here are the latest, in chronological order:

"At the same time I got to know Mike Griffin at Hypnos Recording, one of the finest American ambient labels in existence (in my opinion). The label has such a unique style both in sound and appearance that I wanted to be a part of it. I recorded the track "Via Mycropia" for the first Hypnos compilation, "The Other World". Also, I am currently recording my follow up to THE ETERNAL NOW, for release on the Hypnos label. SPECTRAL SHIPS is a piece inspired by the folklore of ghost ships. Spectral Ships, according to legend, were mysterious vessels which appeared on the horizon at sunset. Other recent events were the release of "Vox 2.5" from Vox Orbita on the UK compilation EM:T 1197 and another track from the Vox disc on the compilation BACK TO THE UNIVERSE IN MOSCOW. I will have another track released in Russia in late 1998 entitled "Elusia, I Can See".

What has been the evolution of your equipment in the meantime?

"My basic setup (the old ESQ1) has been such a friend that I don't want to change it! However, on a recommendation from Gregory Kyryluk (Alpha Wave Movement) I did just get a Roland 1080 sound module with the orchestral and world sound cards. The sound quality and flexibility of this piece is remarkable. Much of SPECTRAL SHIPS will have been recorded with that module."

Brave Tales (Survival, 1982)
Expectable (Survival, 1983)
Emerging Melodies (Rumble, 1983)
Alternate Music For The Hindenburg Lounge (Eurock, 1984)
Quirkwork (Quirkworks Laboratory, 1993)
X Considers Y (Quirkworks Laboratory, 1994)
Ambiento (Quirkworks Laboratory, 1994)
Vox Orbita (Quirkworks Laboratory, 1995)
Metaphysic Mambo (Reversing, 1996)
Eternal Now (Quirkworks, 1996)
A Survey Of Remembered Things (Quirkworks, 1997)
Electropica (Quirkworks, 1998)

PO BOX 229
Greenville RI 02828