AV: Before we get
down to questions about your pSy-fI, could you tell our readers a little bit
about yourself and how you got started creating the style of music that you do
zerO One: I’ve been playing music since I was about 8 years old. My first
instrument was tenor sax – I played in school marching bands, swing bands, orchestra. My father was a great tenor sax player, and
he encouraged me. It wasn’t until the mid-80s that I discovered electronic music. One of the first tracks that caught my
attention was Autobahn – it just mesmerized me, and I set about learning what this music was about. I started
listening to all the electronic albums I could get my hands on – Kraftwerk, Tangerine Dream, etc. Playing music had become a normal part of my
existence at this point, and I decided to pursue the electronic style.
AV: Your latest
CD, pSy-fI, was released not too long ago.
What was the inspiration for this project and when did you actually start work
zerO One: I started on Psy-F in the fall of 2001. I worked on
it, off and on, for about 3 years. I
guess the inspiration for Psy-Fi was probably the same as my other projects – that is, to
experiment with sound and composition to see what I came up with. Music has a strong emotional impact on me – my
projects tend to be a sort of catharsis.
AV: Once you get an idea for a music project do
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?
zerO One: For me, it’s less structured. I tend to work when I’m in the mood…when I’m
not feeling it I don’t try to force it. If there’s a deadline I can certainly stay in the studio for weeks at a
time, but I prefer not to work that way.
AV: Does beginning a new project bring to mind
echoes of your previous works and how do you let your new work be its own
creation without becoming too derivative of what you have created before?
zerO One: It’s difficult to not attempt to create a new track that is
as “successful” as a previous one, but I’ve learned from experience that to do this is set myself up for disappointment. I’ve
changed with each new release, and I have to trust that I can come up with something different than before that still
resonates with the listener. Also, I get bored if I try to repeat
something from the past – it is much more enjoyable for me to start
with an open slate in my expectations.
AV: On a project like pSy-fI do you isolate yourself during the creation process
or do you sometimes seek outside opinions as to how things are going?
zerO One: I seldom get feedback or input from anyone during the
writing process – once a track is finished I might give an MP3 to a few people. The kind of
feedback I’m usually looking for at that point is more technical – something glaringly wrong in the mix, for example. For the
most part, nobody hears my new release until it’s finished.
AV: Tell me about a good day that you had while
creating pSy-fI and how moments like that keep you moving forward into
each new project.
zerO One: In the track “Robots,” I had reached a dead end and put it
away for a few weeks. When I reloaded it to continue work, my systemMIDI settings were
all wrong – the wrong sounds were playing the wrong parts. It sounded much better than the way I had envisioned it, and I was able to finish it in a
relatively short amount of time. These are the “happy accidents” that pull me
out of my own limited way of working, my own habits…another good
argument for not trying to repeat something from the past.
AV: If someone were to pick up pSy-fI what would they find there? Give me an idea of the feel of your latest
release as compared to what has come before.
Would your listeners recognize it as your “style” or might they be surprised?
zerO One: I think the latest release is a logical evolution of
previous releases. Listeners will probably recognize certain
aspects of the sound that are familiar, but will also find a lot of
new sounds and techniques being developed. Psy-fi utilizes a lot more sampling, which adds a depth to the tracks. But it is
still a primarily synthesized effort – the samples are still secondary to the synthesizer.
AV: When did you
know that pSy-fI was done and that tweaking the mix would not make it any
better than it already is?
zerO One: My tracks tend to start with a very rough sketch. One the
sketch is done I’ll focus on the arrangement and the sounds. I become more and more musically microscopic with each
session to the point that I begin to ignore the actual structure and focus on smaller and smaller aspects of the sound itself. So, in
each phase I put on a different hat – writer, engineer, producer. I think this is pretty common with solo
artists. When I think I’ve done everything I can do,
I’ll put on the hat of listener. If it still has the original feel, I’ll call
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?
zerO One: Yes, I always feel apprehensive…I wonder if I’ve totally
missed the mark.
AV: What kind of
feedback have you been getting since releasing pSy-fI? How closely do you
follow reviews or the comments you receive from your listeners?
zerO One: The reviews and feedback have been great – and pSy-fI has
made some top 20 lists for 2004. I’m very grateful for this. I do read and listen to reviews and comments. I answer
all emails from listeners. I’ve spent many years making music, often
without many listeners. If given a choice, I’d certainly choose to have my music
appreciated – it makes the process so much more gratifying. I don’t take it for granted.
AV: When you
finished pSy-fI 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?
zerO One: It’s usually more than a year before I go back and listen to
the previous release – by the time a project is completed, I’ve just reached the end of my objectivity. After that, yes, I do go back to listen…and
learn. I’m usually surprised to find that I’m actually pleased with the overall project, and that there
are no big mistakes. I often wonder how I did it…:>) I don’t dwell on previous tracks too much, however. I’m more
interested in forging ahead.
AV: What might
your listeners be looking for in the near future from you as far as the next
zerO One: I’ve spent the past several months just putting sounds
together – I’m sketching out the overall sound of the next project. There’s
going to be a focus on rhythmic variety and richer pads and basslines. There will also be a focus on the depth of
the overall sound. And I suspect some of the trademark zerO One melodies will work their way in as well. I’m working
toward an evolution in sound – familiar to 01 listeners but different enough to keep things interesting. I also have
a special multi-media section of the disc planned, but for now I’m not going to share what it is…:>)
AV: Is there
anything else about pSy-fI that stood out in your mind that you would
like to pass along to the readers of Ambient Visions as we close out this
Zer0 0ne: One thing that stands out for me is the fact that the right
people always seem to appear at the right time. In the case of pSy-fI, I received an email from Cameron at Spiralight out of the
blue inviting me to contribute a track for Ambienism Vol.
1. His timing was uncanny, as I was just beginning to seek out
distribution for the disc. We just hit it off and we were both on the same wavelength about how to release pSy-fI.
artwork and animation for the disc, as well as his attention to detail, took this release to the next level.
I’d also like to thank you, Michael, for your promotion of
ambient music, along with all the supporters and listeners. Your support and enthusiasm really do matter.
AV: Always happy to let people know about the great music that you and others like you create to keep our CD players filled with pleasing sounds. Good luck on your next release and I'll be looking forward to listening to it as well.