Time Travel







- By Piero Scaruffi and Bill Binkelman 
Issue #4  -  November 1997

From the Avant Garde and Ambient to the Bossa Nova and Beyond
Richard Bone - Is an Artist With a Unique Perspective

During the early 80's Richard Bone was among the protagonists of the New York avant garde scene. His career has recently revealed signs of impending multiple personality as he is partly drawn towards Brian Eno's quirky electro-pop songs and partly fascinated by the fashionable ambient and electronic bandwagon.

P.S. How did you end up in New York in the first place  and how did you connect in  the musical scene there?

My formal training started in theatre. 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. I was also creating sound design for off-Broadway experimental theater.
At the time I had also discovered an LP called  T
he United States of America. It was the first time I had heard cutting edge electronics used in a rock format. That band, led by Joseph Byrd (whose solo works were also influential for me),  led me to start my own band using very primitive synths and an early drum machine straight out of a Holiday Inn cocktail lounge.  This probably explains my current fondness for lounge music.  We played to less than avant crowds up and down the east coast, which  led to a keen sense of self-preservation and the ability to avoid flying objects from multiple angles. I eventually recorded a series of works, some very much in a pop style for the UK  Label  Survival Records and some that were more experimental in nature which I did on my own.

P.S. Tell us about how all that eventually became Quirkworks.

At the time I was drawn more and more toward ambient work, so I eventually left Survival UK and started Quirkwork  Laboratory. My  first two albums were attempts to continue where I had left off with Survival Records, i.e., music with words. It wasn't until The Eternal Now that I decided to pursue instrumental/atmospheric music solely. I actually feel that   X Considers Y  (an earlier release) would be a much more interesting without the vocal tracks.

P.S. The Eternal Now contains two suites, "Zone," and "The Millennium Pages," which effectively merged two aspects of your art--ambient's tranquil stasis and cosmic music's grandiose visions, imbued with solemn, touching melodies.

The recording of these two pieces are extremely personal to me. I had ended a ten-year relationship and faced my abuse of a certain Russian beverage. My thoughts were turned inward. 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 were largely improvised.

B.B.What are your musical roots?

When I was a kid I picked up a very cheap electric guitar and since I couldn't really play it all that well, what I wound up doing was hooking it up to really inexpensive tape recorders, doing bizarre tunings and just trying to get what I guess ended up being processed guitar sounds. Back then, in the mid to late '60s, I was more interested in the strangeness of sound. 

B.B. When did music become more than just a hobby?

I'd always been a performer at heart as a kid. My parents built a playroom for me in the back of the house. I put up a little curtain in what was suppose to be the laundry room and made it into a stage. I would put on shows for them. I would act, dance, sing, whatever. I was a very young kid and they always encouraged me to be a performer.
I went to the University of Tennessee to study mechanical engineering to be an architect but got side tracked by the drama department. I told my parents, "I really don't want to be an architect. I want to be an actor." So they sent me to New York to study theater. I was playing guitar at the same time and that evolved into doing some really experimental soundtracks and scores for a lot of off-off-Broadway productions, using  tape-recorded stuff and processed tape [see first section of interview].

B.B. Brings us up to the present musically.

My new disc, Electropica, that I'm working on is completely based on mid-'60s bossa nova recordings. Where most of my contemporaries are doing a lot of very fluid, very dreamy electronic music, I've just, for no particular reason, fallen in love with this stuff and have gone in that direction. I know that I'm going to frighten a lot of people by doing this. What I wanted to do was combine "electronica" with the tropical influence of bossa nova and that became Electropica.

B.B. I guess I don't have to ask you if it's going to be rhythmic?

It's very rhythmic. There was one man, a man named Creed Taylor, who produced most of the records that I've heard that really influenced me. And I really have tried to imitate or pay homage to his production techniques, which are very broadly panned, meaning that instruments were panned extremely left and right and center. The new album has very much that kind of feel. It doesn't bear much resemblance at all to the current state of electronica.

B.B. How did the idea of your shared disc with John Orsi [A Survey Of Remembered Things] come about?

John and I had each recorded what was basically an EP's worth of material. And we had planned on each releasing an EP. So we thought, "Well, I guess it would be more economically feasible if we just joined them together." I said to John, "Bring it over and let's see what they sound like if we hear them together." And they seemed to flow. We just sort of did it for economic reasons, really.

B.B. How did you and John meet?

There was an ad in a Boston magazine for the disc called Knitting By Twilight. I had never met John before this. The CD looked intriguing. A coupon in the magazine read "$2.00 off with this coupon" for the CD. So I clipped it and sent it in and ordered the CD. And when I heard it I could not believe that this guy was in my own backyard. I found his number in the phonebook, called him, and said, "I just love what you're doing. I'de like to meet you." And that's how we got together.

B.B. You don't write "happy" electronic music but your work does have a warmth or a lack of the heaviness that seems to be prevelant these days.

I am an eternal optimist. I will always see the best in every situation. I don't have time for a lot of darkness and a lot of negativity. I'm just not a negative person [so] it's almost impossible for me to write negative music. You know I don't want to sound like some sort of fluff-ball who is just doing this sort of airhead-light positive music, but I just don't really see the need for the dark ambient...well, I shouldn't say I don't see the need for it. It's just now what I want to do.

B.B. It's amazing with your compositional process being what it is that your music sounds like it does, i.e. multi-layered and structured rather that free-form.

It all comes very naturally to me. My earlier work, when I was doing some vocal music, was sort of electro-pop structured songs. And on some level I guess some of what I do now still takes some of that compositional structure and just stretches it out. But then again, sometimes it's something completely different, like the album I'm working on next, which will be on the Hypnos label. It's called The Spectral Ships. Do you know what spectral ships are?

B.B. No, I don't.

Spectral ships, according to naval legend, were ghost ships that would appear on the horizon either at dawn or at dusk. So this is going to be completely rhythmless and very moody. Completely different from anything I've done before.

B.B. To close, where does your music come from--your emotions, your intellect?

Well, you know, this is going to sound really bizarre, but of all people that you might think I would pick this from, Keith Richards said something once, which has really stuck with me. He said, "All the music that ever is is out there. All we have to do is put our antenna up." And that's kind of what we do. Whenever I go up to the studio I just sort of....I do my meditation for ten or fifteen minutes and then I just sort of put my antenna up and see what comes in.