Talks with Steve Roach 2007
Fever Dreams III
Early Man: The Projekt Edition 2001
with Byron Metcalf
with Vir Unis
Cavern of Sirens
Dreaming....now, then a retrospective
Structures from Silence
Vine, Bark and Spore
On This Planet
Fever Dreams III:
Ambient Visions has been bringing our readers interviews with some of the leading artists in the ambient world over the past 8 years and this will be the first time that I have gone back and chatted with an artist as a kind of follow up to the original interview. I first spoke with Steve Roach back in 2001 and even though the interview took about a year from start to finish due to the hectic schedule that Steve keeps with appearances and the many projects that he has going at any given time I felt that the interview captured a slice of who Steve was at the time and gave AV readers a chance to get to know Steve a little bit better.
Steve's output in the intervening years since that first interview has not slowed and if anything is accelerating with more projects than ever in the works and new releases being offered up on a regular basis. With that in mind I felt that perhaps an interview that discussed what Steve has been up to in the years since the first interview might be appropriate and given Steve's pivotal role in the history and the future of ambient music that the readers of AV would want to know as well.
For the last few decades Steve Roach has been creating some of the most innovative and personal electronic compositions ever to find their way onto vinyl, cassettes and CD's. Beginning with 1984's Structures of Silence and continuing with 1988's Dreamtime Return Roach has created one classic after another in the field of electronic and space music.
So if you've been a reader of Ambient Visions all these years and enjoyed the first interview with Steve back in 2001 then I thank you for your support and offer you this second interview as a treat for being with us for so long. If you are new to AV then please take some time to go back and read our first talk with Steve Roach which you can find here and then come back and peruse this interview as well and by the way thanks for stopping by AV and I hope that you will be back again. Without further ado........
AV: It's been several years since I spoke to you formally in an interview (about 2001) and I thought the readers of AV might like to catch up with Steve Roach and see what's been happening with you and your music since then. On a personal note you turned 50 since last we talked and I was curious as to how this milestone and as a member of this over 50 club I'd like to know whether this has or hasn't affected how you perceive your music and what you'd still like to do in the coming years.
SR: I hit the big 50 in 2005, the energy of life's momentum just kicked into warp drive. I just love to be in the deep end soundcurrent most every day and or night.
By mid 2005 My wife Linda Kohanov and I moved 50 miles out of Tucson, into what you can consider the high desert outback. This grew out of the fact that Tucson has changed a lot as a city in the past 17 years.
Noise, traffic and sprawl. It just felt like the time was up, this combined with Linda's growing Equine programs and one thing led to another. We were able to find a place outside the city that had what we needed for both our passions. I was able to build a new Timeroom which is spacious and quite different from the previous Timeroom in Tucson. Also a big part of the move was to develop a retreat center based around the Equine work Linda has created and to further channel my fire into new ways of going deeper into the soundcurrent with special events and workshops. We just completed converting one of the large barns into a conference center with café and a guest wing.
I will be doing overnight concerts here in 2007, the main room will hold about 75 people and about half that amount for the overnight events I have planned. I have also been planning a few "into the soundcurrent" workshops, a kind of ambient school. These will be for 6 people per workshop. Each group comes for a week and I will create a program based on the different experience levels, from an Advanced "master class" to a more non-musician direction. Two of these classes are already full.
Besides all that I found that after leaving what has become a big city -Tucson, the connection to the music seems to be amplified out here by the deep skies and a kind silence you rarely hear these days.
AV: Do you always have music and musical ideas circulating through your mind about works in progress or potential new works or do you have some down time during all of these releases where you sit back and enjoy your life a little bit and recharge your creative batteries? What is it that you like to do during your down time or non musical time to keep yourself clear and at your peak when you are ready to approach the next project?
SR: At this point down time is when I sleep, about 5 hours a day, with a catch up day here and there. I would say I enjoy life everyday and don't wait to map out time to do that. My life is structured in a way where at any moment I might be in the studio throughout the day and then always long sessions at night into the AM. Then of course are the things that happen in between, the basics of life, I find a lot of joy in that as well. Its just all flows together. Sometimes like water other times like hot lava.
AV: Since Dreamtime Return was one of my favorite discs from back in the late 80's I was very happy to see it given the full treatment with a re release and remastering in 2005. Tell me what it was about this CD that you felt it deserved to be remastered and given a second chance in your released body of work?
SR: When the rights reverted back to me I wanted to revisit the release with what I have learned since then, from a mastering point of view. While the original was fine, I could hear subtle adjustments that started to stand out to me and this provided the chance to explore this. Also Celestial did an edition with a cover I was not happy about, so with the support of Projekt we created with the original look of the original with more photos.
AV: I've also noticed some projects spread over several discs and a multi disc project that seem to making a regular appearance in your music. The multi disc release was the Mystic Chords and Sacred Spaces and the music spread over several releases include Fever Dreams, Immersion and the Lost Pieces. When you release music like this is it apparent right from the start of the project that you are looking at more than just a single disc of music or is it something that you become aware of as you progress through a project?
SR: These days I want to spend more time with a
project and all that it opens up. The Fever Dreams space is very tangible and
specific mood. I might be in that mood for days or weeks then something else is
coming I want to explore so I will go off in that direction
for awhile. Also it is common that will I work on several diverse directions and projects within
one day. I love the sense of shifting between these spaces, they will also feed
into each other in fascinating ways.
AV: Is it pretty much an economical decision to release the music over several discs rather than as multi disc box sets? What is it in your mind that compels you to keep a project together as a single release as opposed to spreading it out over several releases?
SR: The multi Cd sets come for the simple fact that the life of the project expands to where it needs to be. Sometimes the collection really feels as if they were born of a time that is bound into the essence of all the pieces. I don't want break them up and lose that thread. The series like Fever Dreams, Immersion and so on are ongoing stories that I feel I need to keep returning to and present as more like chapters in a book. Its not about economics, it about tuning into the life that each project has and feeling what's best for it at that point.
I just completed Fever Dreams 3 and Immersion III, these are good examples of how the projects keep flowing in a connected way. I ended up making Immersion a 3 CD set and Fever Dreams a double.
AV: You've also been through a rather large change in that you relocated out of Tucson into the high desert. How long had you lived in Tucson and what motivated you to leave? Was there anything in particular that you were looking for in your new location in regards to community or in regards to the creation of your music?
SR: After 16 years in Tucson the city just grew in, around us, and above us. Our number 1 priority if we going to pull up stakes and move, which we all know is high stress, was to find deep quiet and dark skies away from any flight paths.
We found it for the most part...and cell phones don't work here either. After the Iraq war started the air traffic all around the Tucson valley was unbearable at times.
AV: And not only over night concerts but you also mentioned a little item you called Ambient School for 6 people at a time. Ok, you've really expanded your concepts of what your musical career is about in the last few years. Tell me about your ideas in regards to music school, what kinds of "training" that you are considering and a ballpark figure for the expenses of actually attending one of these sessions.
SR: I first offered this kind of experience at the Omega Institute about 10 years ago. I will have a Master Class for advanced musicians that will cover the entire gamut of the technical to the creative side and a lot more.
I also will have a workshop encounter for those of a non musician status or beginner status where folks will come and experience a number of creative situations that are based on opening up the spontaneous intuitive side of life using all kind of instruments in a supportive enviroment, this will be adapted to the unique nature of each group.
AV: I noticed that you are releasing another video project called Kairos: The Meeting of Time and Destiny. It sounded like you were being a little more experimental with the images that were going to be associated with your music, tell our readers about this project and how it is going to be a new visual experience for them.
SR: Yes this has been out for while but I don¹t see it as experimental but rather as very directed and focused. The music-soundtrack grew out of a 5 year process of shaping it live with the visuals of 5 different visual artists. After working with it live the shape of the music and visuals were structured in the studio with Roger King who is brilliant with Final Cut and digital video.
The image and music journey is dynamic, it moves through a wide range of powerful images and archetypal forms and soundscapes. The image content is a combination of filmed nature, computer animation, fractal animations, analog light forms. Its was an all consuming project for about 6 months. The end result is that it has a very natural ebb and flow which was important with the range of material I have to work with.
AV: I also noticed that you released your live performance at nearFEST in Bethlehem, PA on CD as well. First off how did you come to play at a progressive rock festival and what were your impressions of what you were able to do during your 45 minute set? What prompted you to release this live recording on CD from last year?
SR: It was arranged by Mike Ostrich and Chuck Oken JR. real supporters of ambient and my music. The festival organizers through Mike and Chuck have been more open to showcasing artists outside of the normal progresive music world. It was exciting to put together a set that moved through the worlds I love to spend time in in a more condensed time line. I felt this recording captured a pure live moment of this dynamic set. The NearFest promoter wanted to put it out, it felt right to me.
AV: Taking a glance back to Early Man and then looking at what has come out in between do you see any patterns that have characterized the creative ebbs and flows to your music over the past 6 years? Are there things you are leaning towards or things that you are moving away from in relation to the music that is currently coming out of the Timeroom?
SR: It feels like one big tidal wave, all I can do is keep riding the wave that demands I ride it...Immersion 3 and Fever Dreams III are out in a few weeks. The recent months of working on these became a kind of possession with me. It was nearly impossible to let go of them and stop working on them or listening to them in the final stages of nearly invisible brush strokes...VERY subtle and sometimes days of just living with it and continuing to hold the space with it. As for the directions it's beginning to feel like a simultaneous expansion into the many zones I love to live in...the clock is ticking
AV: As always it is a pleasure to talk to you and I'd like to finish up this revisiting of Steve Roach on Ambient Visions with one last question about the music that you create. What would you like people to remember about your music and about you as an artist when they look back on the body of work that you have created? (This could be a few years from now or long after you've gone. Not so much what they might believe but more along the lines of what you'd like to remembered for in regards to your music.)
SR: Uncompromised, restless and relentless in the passion of life and I hope in the afterlife as well...
AV: After all these years of wandering through your soundscapes along with you through your recordings I think those terms do capture the sense of who Steve Roach is and I hope to continue to share your journey in the years to come with each new release you send out way. Take care and thanks for updating the readers of Ambient Visions on what you have been up to lately.
See the following websites for more information about the ranch and Epona Center.