8 Shades of Sound by Formaria


Pete Kelly

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My World 




AV:   Before we get down to questions about your latest CD, could you tell our readers a little bit about yourself and how you got started creating the style of music that you do now? 

PK:  Under the pseudonym ‘Igneous Flame’, I have released three critically acclaimed ambient albums, ‘Tolmon’ (2003),
‘Intox’ (2003) and ‘OXANA’ (2004). My ambient work was initially influenced primarily by Brian Eno’s ‘Thursday Afternoon’ ‘On Land’ and ‘Apollo’ albums. I also create surround sound soundtracks for gallery installations and have composed soundtracks for short films.

I live inNorthern England and I’ve played guitar for 25 years. As part of my studies in Music Technology, I was introduced to electroacoustic music and I started experimenting with the practice of processing recorded sounds, which in turn, started me thinking about applying this way of working to creating ambient music. Some reviewers have referred to the ‘synth sounds’ on my releases, but I actually very rarely use synthesisers for my ambient work. Most of the sounds I create were originally recordings, heavily processed. It is all computer based. I also have a more beat based side project called ‘Formbank’. 


AV:  Your latest CD, 8 Shades of Sound, was released not too long ago. What was the inspiration for this project and when did you actually start work on it?  

PK:  At the beginning of the New Year in 2004, my chillfactor10 records labelmate Nick Kemp (who records under the ‘Darkness within Darkness’ name) played me some vocal improvisations that his friend Mary Whitaker had sung over some of his material. Within a few minutes of hearing these rough tracks, I felt that Mary’s voice had real potential and was very suited to ambient material. A month later, she came to Nick’s studio and I recorded her improvising over backing tracks that Nick and myself had created. She did two takes for each track and was finished in about three hours! I then started refining this material, which finished up as the ‘8 Shades of Sound’ release. 

AV:  Once you got the idea for 8 Shades of Sound did you set aside the time to work on the music and dedicate your full attention to the project or is it a little less structured than that?  

PK:  For this project, I set myself a deadline (as I had other projects that I also wanted to work on in 2004) and finished the album only a month behind schedule! The album took seven months to complete and I concentrated solely on it for that period, but not all day, every day because I also work part-time in a centre for the study of sculpture. 

AV:   Normally an artist approaches a new work with a firm understanding of the music that they have created previously and that forms the foundation of the new work. Since your work with Igneous Flame is a solo effort what is it that you are working towards with the release of the Formaria CD that teams you up with a couple of other contributors?  Do you see this an extension of your other work or something different? 

PK:  The opportunity to work with Mary’s voice was the primary thing for me and to create something which I hoped would be more accessible than my solo work. I liked the idea of working on a project which was more
‘light’ (for want of a better word) than my ‘Igneous Flame’ material. Also, I wanted to be able to play some standard guitar parts, something I didn’t feel appropriate for my solo work, which is somewhat ‘purist’ in its use of instrumentation. 

AV:  On 8 Shades of Sound did you isolate yourself during the creation process or do you sometimes seek outside opinions as to how things are going?  

PK:  For this project, I isolated myself and didn’t seek out outside opinions until towards the end of the project, when I gave work-in-progress copies for Mary and Nick to listen to. They gave me their feedback, which I incorporated into the finished album. 

AV:  Tell me about what you found satisfying within 8 Shades of Sound and is this feeling the same for all the music that you create? 

PK:  There comes a point when the material comes together and from that point I know that it is going to work. During the mastering stage I intensely listen to the material in a darkened space and if it is ready, it will be apparent. If the music ‘transports’ me elsewhere, then I feel it has achieved its goal. 

AV:  If someone were to pick up 8 Shades of Sound what would they find there? Give me an idea of the feel of your latest release as compared to some of your other work. Would your regular listeners recognize it as your “style” or might they be surprised?

 PK:  I have a certain ‘style’ regarding some of the continuous drone-like textures that I use. These textures were created from processed guitar (primarily electric 12-string guitar); I think this comes over in ‘8 Shades of Sound’. If someone heard my ‘Intox’ release (which is very dark!), they may be surprised that the same artist was involved in them both. On the whole, ‘8 Shades’ is more subtle and ‘airy’ and I’d like to think that it is somewhat unique in terms of the sculpted soundscape it creates. 

AV:  When did you know that 8 Shades of Sound was done and that tweaking the mix would not make it any better?  

PK:  When I was sick and tired of hearing it anymore! I am able to concentrate quite intently over a relatively short period, but I don’t have the mental stamina to concentrate on one project over prolonged periods of time. I know when to stop working on a project and finish it, which I think is important. 

AV:   Do you ever feel apprehensive when it comes time to take a project like this to the next stage and release it to the public?  

PK:  Every time. I tend to have a feeling of ‘have I gone too far this time?’! I am somewhat hypercritical of my own work. 

AV:  What kind of feedback have you been getting since releasing 8 Shades of Sound? How closely do you follow reviews or the comments you receive from your listeners?  

PK:  The feedback has been very positive. I actively follow reviews, airplay and chart listings and I am always appreciative of people’s comments (see the chillfactor10 site for more details). I‘ve had a lot of positive feedback from fellow ambient artists, which has been very encouraging. There have been some comments regarding the ‘peculiar effects’ some people have experienced with some of the tracks, particularly ‘Infinity’s End’ (the final track).

AV:  When you finish a project like this and it has had a little time to settle down after the official release do you ever go back and take a critical look at the project and think about things that might have been done differently or have you already moved on in your mind to your next creation?  

PK:  A bit of both really. Immediately after releasing something I can’t bear to hear it, as I’m still in ‘mastering mode‘ (listening for the mistakes, effectively!), but over time I can appraise it more objectively. I am always thinking about my next project(s). 

AV:   Being intimately familiar with this work what will listeners take away from this CD after they have listened to it a few times? What are you own hopes for this music when it leaves your hands and is given over to the listeners?  

PK:  I was hoping that it could be used as ambient music in the ‘true’ sense - following from Eno’s original definition, that it is as listenable as it is ignorable. I feel it has certain relaxing/hypnotic effects and could be used to create a calming atmosphere/‘headspace’. As with my solo material, my intention is that the music ‘transports’ the listener, as I mentioned earlier. 

AV:  Where can AV’s readers get a copy of 8 Shades of Sound for their own? 

PK:  It is available now from the followingUK based labels: 

chillfactor10 records (my label) www.chillfactor10.com

Farfield records www.ambientmusic.co.uk  

and is also available for digital download at

www.ambient.us www.emusic.com and www.AtmoWorks (tbc) 

AV:  Is there anything else about 8 Shades of Sound that stood out in your mind that we haven’t already covered that you would like to pass along the readers of Ambient Visions as we close out this spotlight?  

PK:  I’ve referred mostly to myself throughout this interview, but ‘8 shades of sound’ was a collaborative project and I found that working with other sound sources and different material and textures dictated a different way of working which was quite ‘fresh’ for me. I’ve always been interested in taking on the role of ‘producer’, of overseeing a project, in musical terms. I felt that this was one of the most interesting parts of the project. I’d like to thank Mary and Nick for their input and for letting me get on with it! 

Finally, at present, we don’t anticipate there being another Formaria release. However, I will be using some samples of Mary’s voices on my next ambient album ‘SATU’ which I’m now working on to be released in late spring 2005. 

Thanks for you interest!

AV:  Thanks for talking to us Pete and I wish you luck on your upcoming releases. Keep up the good work.