Eternity II
 AV talks with John Lyell


John Lyell

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Eternity II
by John Lyell


AV:  I think that the last time we spoke was way back in 2007 when you were releasing Dimensions. We’ll get to some questions about Eternity II in a bit, but tell me what’s been happening with you musically for the last 17 years?

JL:  Well...since my last interview with Ambient Visions which was in July of 2007 I've been very busy with numerous projects that are guitar band-based as well as a number of Ambient releases...and also moving half-way across the country to New Mexico and taking some time to get settled in our new Southwest surroundings.  

For those out there that don't know...I've been a Rock and Acoustic guitarist for over 40 years. I've been alternating between doing Rock, Acoustic and Ambient music for decades. 

After I released my first solo Ambient album Dimensions in November of 2006, I started an Acoustic Duo in the Fall of 2007 called "Life As We Know It" and had two commercial releases with that project between 2010 and 2015.  


Of course in between those Acoustic albums and shortly after that project finished I released the Ambient albums "Eternity" in 2012, "Reflection of Time" in 2014 and "Planetary Artifacts" in February of 2017.

Shortly after Planetary Artifacts was released my wife and I moved from the Twin Cities area of Minnesota to Rio Rancho, New Mexico...just North of Albuquerque in May of 2017.   

After taking about a year to get settled here in the wife...who is a professional singer / vocal coach and myself started an all original Hard Rock band called ROCKBORN™ in August of 2018 that was based in the Albuquerque Metro area.
We recorded our debut album which is called "Born To Rock" in Nashville in September of 2019 with legendary Hard Rock producer/engineer Michael Wagener who has worked with Dokken, Metallica, Skid Row, White Lion, Ozzy Osbourne, Alice Cooper and many other big name artists of the 80's and early 90's. We released it on March 6th, 2020 and then had the world shut down five days later because of COVID and never could do a CD release party or any shows at all until June 4th, 2021 performing a Facebook Live-Streaming show...which became the popular thing during the COVID lockdowns. We recorded four new songs in November 2020 at a studio here in Albuquerque and sent them to Michael Wagener in Nashville to mix we couldn't go to his studio in person to record because of COVID. We released a single from that session called "Rock Me Harder" on August 6th, 2021 and then finally released the other three songs as a 3-song E.P. on October 28th, 2022.

However, COVID pretty much ruined the band at that point...and having parted company with our original drummer in the Summer of 2022 we have been on a hiatus ever since...with us still not having found a new drummer. ROCKBORN™ only ended up performing three shows ever...with two of them being the Live-Streaming thing...with the last live-stream show on September 3rd, 2021. The band thing took up about three years of my time...hence no Ambient releases for quite some time. 

With our Rock band being on a hiatus...I turned my focus and energy to getting back into composing Ambient music once again in 2023. 

AV:  Seems our last interview was done just prior to the founding of Bandcamp as a way for artists to have more control over their music and for artists to sell directly to their fans. Here in 2024, we are comfortable with Bandcamp as a platform for artists, but there is a learning curve as artists move from the streaming platforms and start to take advantage of a sales platform like Bandcamp.  Tell me about how you began to integrate Bandcamp into your music marketing strategy and how successful it has been in getting your music out there. Is there more of a revenue stream from a platform like Bandcamp as opposed to Spotify? 

JL:  Man...the music landscape sure has changed dramatically even since my previous Ambient album "Planetary Artifacts" was released in February of 2017.  Just in those seven years I almost don't recognize the music business from the way it was back then...let alone since Dimensions came out in 2006...drastic difference in the music landscape.  And Ambient radio station list that I have is seven years old going into my new release Eternity II.  Man, was that mostly not relevant anymore either. Where to begin finding out about new shows or stations that are playing Ambient...and how many have gone by the way-side...yikes !!  And I went to check on the radio airplay charts only to find out that ZMR has been offline since early October of 2023...apparently their server was hacked and the ZMR site was just gone. Makes me think what the heck is going on with the world. How the heck is anyone gonna find out where they sit with their radio airplay with ZMR gone ?  

I finally did get a Bandcamp page going just last year for my Ambient music...since I knew I was gearing up to write a new Ambient release this year. I'm kind of late to the game on the Bandcamp I'm trying to play catch up on that. Since it's been so long since my last release I kind of was still in the older paradigm of seven years ago from a thought process standpoint...I definiteIy had to get on the ball and get the Bandcamp thing I saw it has become a very predominant site for artists now. Since I'm pretty new to Bandcamp I really don't have the best idea yet of how much better it will be for me as opposed to Spotify and streaming in general. 

I think Bandcamp is probably the only "shining light" that artists have left for any semblance of music sales. I am steering as many people as possible to my Bandcamp page first to check out my music before I'd recommend them to look for me on the streaming platforms. As far as being more of a revenue stream...Bandcamp does have the potential for more revenue because of the option for purchasing digital the old iTunes used to do. You still have to be able to steer a substantial number of people to your site to get the revenue marketing of some kind is still a must. 

My thoughts on the whole streaming thing are this:  I am definitely NOT happy with "streaming" technology.  I think the whole "streaming paradigm" is absolutely HORRIBLE for artists. 

AV:  Are you happy with the way the streaming internet has evolved over the last 17 years in terms of helping artists get more exposure for their music? Has it improved, or is it still hard for artists to get “seen” by fans who might potentially purchase their music?

JL:  As far as getting exposure with streaming...I think it's much more cluttered now with so many more artists that have their music on the streaming platforms. Now, can you potentially get exposure with having your music on the streaming platforms ? Sure. But have to do some serious marketing to have any chance of getting name recognition...whether you're talking about streaming or Bandcamp. Otherwise, not a whole lot is gonna happen for you by just sticking your stuff online and trying to let gravity take hold so to speak.

AV:  Your new album is called Eternity II so I think we should start our discussion by looking back at Eternity I and talking about the roots of your latest album. Tell me about Eternity I and what inspired the first chapter of this story. 

JL:  The first Eternity album came about after a long stretch of time of not doing any Ambient or SpaceMusic.  After being really busy with my Acoustic project for a number of years...I thought it was time to finally get back into my studio and get cracking on another Ambient album. With such a long drought of not composing any Ambient music I was very inspired to come up with some really spacey tunes.  

AV:  The title gives the impression of timelessness and expansiveness. How did you go about translating such broad themes into music on Eternity I and were you happy with the results of the finished project when you released it?

JL:  I actually came up with the album cover art and the name of the title before I had even started recording the cover art and title was sitting there waiting for me to finish the music.  

I was definitely very happy with Eternity when I released it.  And shortly after it was released Eternity ended up going up to number 22 on the ZMR Top 100 radio charts for April of 2012...which at that point was my most successful release to I was even more elated with the results after putting all that time and energy into it.

AV:  How often do you go back to a previous album and build on something that you created earlier in your career?

JL:  Every now and then I do go back and listen to a number of song ideas from the original sessions from previous albums...compositions that I like enough to consider as "keepers" but are maybe only half done and were never quite finished and were left off those past releases because of that.  I'll revisit those ideas to see if I can think of a part or two to finish any of them off...and if I just can't think of any parts to add at that time then I just leave them alone...again. (LOL)  And god only knows if and when I'll think up any parts to finish them off.  

AV:  Do you try to reinsert yourself into the mind frame that you were in when your created the first Eternity album or do you use the previous music as a jumping off point to explore new ways of looking at the themes of Eternity I? Please explain your process for how you approached Eternity II. 

JL:  I had four specific compositions that I knew were keepers sitting in my computer that were created in October of 2014...kind of in between the Eternity and Reflection of Time albums.  I was agonizing over whether I thought they were finished or not...and they ended up sitting there for about 9 1/2 years...with me having occasionally gone back from time to time and listened to them over the years.  I finally concluded that three of those compositions were done...and one of them needed just one more part to finish off.  I couldn't think of the right part to put in this fourth song for years...and then it finally came to me early this year (2024) and I finally finished it.  

And I had two relatively new compositions that I was able to finish up fairly quickly that I thought were close enough in style with the other four songs...making Eternity II a 6-song release.

AV:  Is it easier to have a musical foundation already available to build on (Eternity I) for a new album or is starting from scratch easier?

JL:  A lot of times I think starting from scratch is easier because after all these years later I'll most likely be in a different head-space than I was in the past.  And I may be attracted to different sounds and textures now...and would likely compose differently as well...especially having acquired new and different sounding synthesizers in recent years. Having said that...maybe sometimes you want to revisit a vibe or style from a past album because you've been away from it for quite some time and it seems to be calling back to you.  I guess the trick not be completely repetitive when revisiting a past at least have some sense of progression yet still keeping that style.  That is what takes some creative skill.

AV:  Tell me about what you were hoping to create with Eternity II.

JL:  Well...since I had these older songs that used a lot of the same sounds and textures as my Eternity release...because of when they were recorded...I thought that the title "Eternity II" really fit the style of these tunes. As I looked at the album cover design which I had finished a few years just looked to me like the title "Eternity II" totally fit the graphics and the music as well.  So I had the album named and graphics done quite some time ago...just waiting for the songs to get done. Funny thing how that works sometimes. As far as what I was hoping to create with this new release...I just thought that I needed to get these songs out there into the world...they've been waiting long enough.

AV:  Having all those years between Eternity I and II did you acquire new ways of looking at music via your prog work and new skills in producing and recording your music that you didn't have when you did the first album and how did that help you on Eternity II?

JL:  I do think having acquired more music and production knowledge over the years did give me a different perspective for sure.  I think this ended up helping me finally figure out in my head what kind of parts would fit in these songs to complete them. And I would say that having switched back to using only "hardware" synthesizers since 2018 has made me compose a bit differently as well...especially having acquired the Sequential Oberheim OB-6 analog synth module almost a year ago. You can hear the OB-6 on the song "Observatory"...which is one of the newer tracks.  

All my previous solo releases starting with Dimensions up to Planetary Artifacts used about 50% software synths mixed with 50% hardware synths. So these tunes on Eternity II definitely have that mix of software and hardware combined considering the time-frame they were originally composed. However, two of the newer songs on this release "Eternity II" and "Observatory" had only hardware synths used...and a voice effect. Also, having acquired several Alesis MMT-8 Midi Recorders / Sequencers over the last couple of years...(these were made in the late 80's - early 90's so they are pretty old but still work great)...has really opened some doors as far as looping and composition goes...for the studio and live performance.  I used one of the MMT-8's in composing the track "Eternity II".

AV:  Did revisiting Eternity I during the creation of Eternity II yield any surprises or unexpected inspirations as you watched the path between them grow?

JL:  I don't know that I listened to tracks from Eternity I per se...I would go back and listen to the unfinished material that was left off Eternity I or recorded shortly thereafter which had that similar vibe. As far as unexpected inspirations go...I think having an epiphany of sorts when it came to me what kind of sound would fit in these tunes to finish them off.  I was like "finally, after all these years of being stumped".

AV:  In what ways is Eternity II divergent from what listeners hear on Eternity I and in what ways will it seem similar?

JL:  I think the first three songs on Eternity II are closest in sound and style to the original Eternity album...having similar sounds and textures.  

And with the last three songs "Eternity II", "Observatory" and "Final Approach" being a bit divergent but still close enough stylistically to fit with the rest of the tracks.

AV:  Now that Eternity II is out in the world are you happy with how the two albums relate to each other? Are you satisfied that Eternity II followed the same basic path as the first album?

JL:  I am happy with how they relate to each other. Eternity II is definitely in the same ballpark with the vibe and feel of the original...but being a bit of a progression at the same time.

AV:  Is Eternity II going to be a re-entry for you into doing more ambient releases going forward? In other words, what's next for John Lyell? 

JL:   With this new release I'm finally getting back out into the Ambient world after a seven year absence...which is of course because of being involved with other styles of music during that time.

I'm definitely inspired to do more ambient releases in the future with not so much time between releases from now on. And...I'll be taking the time to get more familiar with the newer hardware synths that I've acquired in the last few years...especially the analog synths I've picked up such as the Sequential Oberheim OB-6 and Sequential Prophet 6. Gotta dig in and do some more serious sound design with these so I can have some cool sounds for upcoming ambient albums. I've got some pretty cool sounds happening already with these analog synths.

Also, I've started performing live ambient shows as of June 2023. I've done a couple of live performances in Santa Fe, NM...and I have another live show coming up on August 23rd, 2024 in Santa Fe at a venue called Paradiso. Ambient artist Jeff Greinke from Tucson will also be performing on the same bill that night...each of us performing a solo 45-minute set. I'm definitely looking forward to the show. 

I'll definitely be continuing to look for opportunities to perform more live shows in the future as well as working on new material in the studio. 

As always...I'd like to thank Ambient Visions for reaching out and taking the time for this interview !!

AV:  You're quite welcome! Always happy to let everyone else discover your music after having spent so many years listening to it myself. Thanks for talking to Ambient Visions and as always we wish you much success in the years to come.


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