Talks with Steve Roach

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Steve Roach

To visit Steve's Site click here.


Steve Roach IS the man!  I can think of no artist who takes more risks and succeeds more often than Steve!  I have gotten to know Steve over the last two or three years through his music and through electronic communications.  (I have also met him in person and was a guest at his home after the concert with Jorge Reyes last May.)  In that time I have learned that he takes his ART very seriously.  I have also learned that he respects and appreciates feedback from us - his listeners and fans.

Recently, I read a request on the space and ambient lists asking for a "Steve Roach recommendation."  I merely typed in "All of them!" and sent it back!  Such is the plethora of great releases from this giant among giants!  My favorite Steve Roach CD is always his newest one.  Each release raises the ceiling and goes deeper into the perpendicular universe.

Steve has recorded in many "sub-genres" of electronic music.  In each case, he has mastered the craft and in most cases, dominated the arena.  In some cases (desert ambience and tribal minimalism) he has defined the style. 

It has been a rewarding and humbling experience to review this genius's work and labors of love.  Thank you, Michael, for inviting me to be a small part of this interview!

---Jim Brenholts---

Ambient Visions is proud to continue our series of Artist interviews with our latest entry featuring Steve Roach. For the last 23 years 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.

Steve feels that the urge to create his compositions is equivalent to the act of  breathing and I'm sure that explains why he has been so prolific over the years and why he has no intention of slowing down in the foreseeable future. Put on a Steve Roach CD and dig right in to this insightful interview. Enjoy.


Early Man: The Projekt Edition:
Ambient Visions Talks with....Steve Roach

Early Man: The Projekt Edition 2001

Visit the Projekt Website


Midnight Moon


Serpents Lair

with Byron Metcalf 


Dreamtime Return


Body Electric 

with Vir Unis


Cavern of Sirens

with vidnaObmana


Dream Circle, then a retrospective


Light Fantastic


Magnificent Void


Structures from Silence


Vine, Bark and Spore


On This Planet




Well of Souls

with vidnaObmana





with Robert Rich





AV:  As you dig through your consciousness looking for the sounds that will become your music, do you ever run across spiritual or mystical roots at the source? If so how is your music connected to these roots and how does it influence what flows out from you?

SR:  I feel the exposed tips of these "roots of consciousness" you speak of are what call me deeper into the soundworlds I am drawn to create. I feel the tips of these roots are what often call to me.  Sometimes as passing epiphanies , sometimes as sudden inspirations or even long term pursuits of on-going questions which I continue to ask myself and ponder upon. After dwelling on an area of deep interest or elusive attraction  and following these metaphorical roots, the creative process is like providing the nourishment with rich soil and water.

My music becomes what can be equivalent to the display of nourishment the lifeform receives during this process and is witnessed from above the ground through the release of music into the world, in essence bringing the unconscious and daily fantasies and obsessions into form and awareness.

At this point in my life, it all flows together and the need to create is constant, like breathing,  the spontaneous moments at any point can create openings that offer the chance to explore non-ordinary states and peak sessions that can be captured on a recording which can forever hold and transmit the energy as it occurred.

AV:  Would it be fair to say that your music creates a frame of mind in your listeners that allows them to more easily move into a spiritual state? Why is that?

SR:  The willful intention in all my music is to create an opening which allows me to step out of everyday time and space into a place I feel we are born to experience directly. Many of our current social structures and material concerns shut down the opening or build a complex array of plumbing to run through it.

In any case, these soundworlds offer a place where the bondage of western time is removed and the direct experience of the feeling of an expanded state is encouraged. Of course the soundworlds I choose to create and live within are the ones my nervous system responds to, and  people aren't necessarily going to respond to them in the same way. I often refer to the words "visceral" and "being in the  sound current" when describing my work.

This is a prime area where I feel the measure of all my work... in the body, the vessel for spirit.  So for me to create these sounds and rhythms and utilize my own body as the reflecting chamber is  my direct way of living in the sound current that occurs naturally when the juices are flowing. From the feedback I receive this is something I know receptive listeners are feeling as  well. Tapping into the creative process at this direct level simply feels like birthright.

AV:  I realize that you have been making music for many years now but for those readers who may not know you perhaps you can give us the Readers Digest version of your career in the music business?

SR:  Its been a long, wonderful and strange trip indeed. When I set out to live the creative life as a sound sculptor it was a different time to say the least. In the mid 70's this music was still being born, especially in the states. There were almost no labels, no real radio support, a few  underground magazines like Eurock and Synapse, the latter of which I also wrote for, but  compared to today with the Internet as the hub of all things it was the dark ages. Imagine trying to hook up with like-minded people or get your music to people beyond your immediate reach. It was also an incredibly exciting time with impending changes in the air. The frontier of consciousness expanding music was clearly growing and this impetus was  spawning many new instruments and small companies that often came and went as fast as they appeared. I set out  to do electronic music against many odds but my passion to live in the sound current was all that mattered, and this is what drove me through all the highs and lows and beyond the naysayers. At that time only a  handful of people around me knew what I was talking about when I would start on these born-again tirades about the "music of the future".  There really was a feeling of being a part of something significant in a historic sense. To witness all these changes and to meet and work with many of the people helping to bring all this together in such a short time was nothing short of fantastic.

It was just 20 years ago that getting your music onto an LP or a cassette run was a major accomplishment. Then there were the tasks of gathering names from underground sources and mailing packages and letters to each and every one. It was a grassroots effort where I felt like every cassette or LP sent out was like a personal connection. I still feel this way.  My first release was "Now" in 1982, followed by "Structures from Silence" on cassette. It was this release that brought me to the attention an official label at the time, Fortuna Records based in California.

This is about the time I met Robert Rich as well, who was also self publishing his early work like Trances and Drones.

It's important for me to say I have never approached my music as a career, profession or a way to make a living. It so happens that my obsession to live in these soundworlds provides the support to keep me creating and this is something I don't take for granted.

As a side bar to the above, this is a very brief overview from my perspective of events not long ago that  occurred in the pre-internet era... The "commercial"  ground swell started to build in the late 80's, the catch-all term New Age was adopted for the purpose of retail and marketing. This  travesty of a word started to build momentum and swoop up many forms of unsuspecting genreless music at the same time. Companies like Windham Hill and Private Music backed by major label clout and greed continued to build the fire and find a peak in the early 90's inspiring dozens of  overnight labels to spew out reams of forgettable "product."

In my opinion this glut of  "product" helped to poison the well in some ways and turn a lot of people off to this music in the end . Still the momentum from this time was positive and thankfully, like a raging California wildfire, it burned itself out, leaving behind a smoldering, ashen heap which fueled the natural process of survival of the fittest. The Phoenix rose up. On the 8th day, what's his name created the Internet, the mecca for all  fringe dwellers old and new, including the ones  that survived the great "wildfires" of the early 90's. These to me seem like bumps in the long road when even looking back a few years later.

AV:  For those who might want to catch up on what they have missed to date, what titles in your rather large CD catalog would be essential to understanding the musical evolution of  who you were and who you are today?

SR:   I think it can be divided into a few periods, first starting with Empetus and Stormwarning, then Structures from Silence and Quiet Music then to Dreamtime Return, on to Origins, Magnificent Void and Dream Circle, and On this Planet. Perhaps the most efficient way to see the perspective is the release "Dreaming... Now, Then"  a retrospective from 1982 through 1997.

The collaborations with vidnaObmana, Light Fantastic and Body Electric with Vir Unis... Atmospheric Conditions and Early Man, really this is a hard call since I feel each project is connected to the evolution in the model of a spiral.

Steve Roach live in concert. Photo by  John Wadsworth

Steve live in concert.. Hartford, Connecticut

Photo by John Wadsworth© 

AV:  Do you have any specific goals in mind when you step into the Timeroom or is it an intuitive process that asserts itself only after you begin?

SR:  It can be both. The neutral, safe environment of the Timeroom is something that I longed to have before building it from the ground up. I wanted to create a space that was more than a room full of gear. It had to offer a kind of sanctuary during the creative process. For me this was achieved by the shape, windows and color scheme, the arrangement of gear, no phones or clocks.

This is a place I love to be in everyday, so in an eastern sense it relates to having this quiet place inside yourself no matter where you are which is a much harder task to maintain out in the world today. So the Timeroom supports and encourages my desire to create  these sounds that often feel just out of reach, just below the surface but always present, a place you know exists but were unaware of until soundworlds are created that feel familiar in that strange, elusive, clearly non-verbal way. I often refer to the ways of a visual artist, painter or sculptor in terms of the relationship with the process of creating one's work over long periods of solitary time.

AV:  Are there any mental or spiritual exercises that you go through before you step into the studio to begin a new project?

SR:  I would say living life everyday as I do is constantly exercising me to stay connected to what really matters in my life. This is before music or projects, since my life is centered around the creative process. Often I am creating pieces with no agenda, the Tabula Rasa...clean slate...empty state of mind....  This process leads me to a place rich with new understandings on many levels. It seems at times that pieces will come together in an effortless way that takes me months to understand how they came about on a more conscious level. The Magnificent Void is a disc I  really have no memory of creating. I worked on the various pieces over a period of a few years but all the details are gone. Other projects are still fresh in my mind. Also there is a strange dichotomy of surrender and control that occurs when creating with the complex technology that I work with. The choices alone could be daunting. People who see the Timeroom for first time  often ask "where do you start?" To answer this in plain English is not  possible.

We need new words for this, but perhaps a better question is "when do I start?" 

The answer is "when the spirit moves me." 

AV:  For many the advent of technology and the computer has been seen as a threat to our humanity. Do you find it ironic that such high tech instruments as the synthesizer and the computer can create music that touches such primitive parts of our soul and spirit? How is it that you view your own relationship to the instruments that allow you to produce that which lies within you?

SR:  I have always embraced the technology  with open arms. I was ready to carve out my soundworlds with all these tools, and when I laid hands on my first "ancient"synthesizer  years ago, I knew this was my path.

The threat from the technology comes from the people's intentions and motivations and also the misconceptions and ignorance drawn from the tired cliché that technology is cold and soulless.

In fact, I feel incredible evolution in the beauty of a fine tool that lets me create these soundworlds that could never have been realized until only a few years ago. The tools, like the finest single-haired paint brush or surgical laser, can share the same artistry as today's music technology, touching infinitely subtle, complex and unseen worlds.

I see the didgeridoo and see my favorite analog synthesizer the Oberheim Matrix 12 as both being high points in the eras that gave birth to them. The didgeridoo was a much, much earlier form of technology, one that created a rich, continuous drone in the same way as the most current  synthesizer and computer set up. In the right hands, the Oberheim Matrix 12 Analog Synth can tap into the same timeless realm as the didg, and elaborate on this feeling with a much more  intricate series of multi-layered drones that blossom into waves of sound that seem to be spilling forth from other worlds. Of course in the wrong hands, both the didg and the Matrix 12 can be irritating, threatening or just plain boring. It's a matter of the artist's intention and skill, and how deep he or she is willing to draw upon their own true source of inspiration.

AV:  Do you plan on using DVD technology to create soundscapes that take into account the surround capabilities of that medium and the capacity for many hours of journeying time?

SR:  Absolutely, although at this present time I am choosing to not be on the bleeding edge. I'd like to wait a little while longer until the standards within the format have settled down and the production costs make sense in relationship to how many people will be interested. Roger King, who masters all my music, is making the investments in surround mastering, and we are also looking toward this someday as well. I know Robert Rich is doing an extended play DVD, and I will be curious to see how this all works out for him. Of course it's the perfect medium for truly long form pieces. I still feel the standard CD was short changed by capping it at 74 minutes.

AV:  Would you like to combine images and video to further express the feelings of your music within the context of the DVD format?

SR:  I have had quite a few  visual music pieces in the past on video and Laser Disk, point being the merging of my music and images has been a part of my creative process outside of whatever format the visual element comes in. I am currently working on  the soundtrack to a beautiful 70 minute long film of southwest images shot on film by Steve Laser. Of course the images are close to my heart, and we are looking at release of this first on video this year, hopefully to follow on DVD. This past year I was also part of a visual music CD-ROM release combining the photography of Martina Verhoven, her husband Vidna Obmana, and my wife Linda Kohanov offering poetry that appears between the images. It' s like a beautiful, surreal walk through a gallery.

This music itself can be so visual that it's a natural extension. If there was enough  time in the day I am sure I would start creating my own visual-soundworlds, but for now I have to draw the line. Someday it will be great to have a release with the archival elements from the Web site archived on DVD as well. We need more time and the budget to produce it. I can see having Slow Heat, The Dream Circle and Atmospheric Conditions on disk as well.

AV:  How does your life in the desert help to shape the music that is finally created by you in the studio? Is there any inherent spiritual or mental conditioning that happens to a person who lives in close proximity to nature?

Steve Roach in his element.....the desert.

SR:  My feeling here is one of being home in the best sense of the word. I just love it here on many levels, the land, the weather, (heat in particular) the atmosphere, the sky and the expansive views. I have always been drawn to the desert. Since I was young my most vivid memories are of desert landscapes and the feelings that would awaken and stay with me up to this moment. This feeling of stripping or burning away the non essential  is something that I am very aware of from the environment here.  It's an open, sensual, mind expanding place which also demands that you stay present and aware in the midst of its extremes. As a metaphor, the desert provides endless inspiration which ultimately makes its way into my music, even if the work is not about the desert directly.  Like all places, it has its own frequency. It feeds me in a direct way without any question. I suppose it's the same for people drawn to the Northwest or New York City the Tropics or Australia. If you are open to feeling a place at this  level then all this makes sense.

So early on when we talked about the roots of consciousness, this is never more clear to me than when it's time for me to hit the road for concerts. The roots feel so deep here it's really difficult for me to leave the desert, even though I ultimately enjoy visiting other interesting places. My wife and I almost feel like there's a magnet under Tucson. We actually feel physically uncomfortable driving out of here. Then about 30 miles from the city limits, the force field seems to break; the pressure subsides, and we can enjoy the trip. Coming home always feels great. I am thankful to have found such a place.

AV:  There are those who take their recording equipment out into the field to record at sacred places or at places that offer acoustical sounds that can't  be created in the studio, are there energies that can be tapped into in  these natural surroundings that can move a musician in certain ways in their  compositions and their playing?

SR:  No question about it if you are open  to this sort of perception and create a kind music that will allow for the moment to be translated directly. In my experience, it's something that extends to old spirited concert halls and 500 year old churches I have played in throughout Europe as well as the outdoor events in natural settings.

As for recording actual performances in remote, power spots and so on, I am more partial to absorb the setting and translate this back in the studio. In the remote sites in Australia for example it was impossible to have more than a portable DAT.

In this situation, I used the DAT to take audio photographs, location ambience recordings of a place. In the studio, I'd use these sonic images to trigger memories, to go back to the time and space where I made the original recording.

Also I love what happens when you inject a field recording into a mix, the sensation of air and atmosphere and another sense of space in a new context. Just recently, I created an evocative yet  minimal soundworld that was playing live for a few days in the Timeroom. One morning it had just rained, and then a host of desert birds were coming out and doing their thing. From the studio, I could hear they were in perfect sync with this atmosphere I had been working on. I quickly proceeded to set up 2 mics outside the Timeroom. I sealed the studio door and started recording  and mixing the outdoor magic that was happening while performing subtle contours "inside". This quality of "air" brings an openness  than often can create a powerful opening when hearing the environment-location recording woven into a soundworld and out of its original context.

AV:  One CD of yours that is always referred to as a must have in any ambient collection is Dreamtime Return. Tell me about how the remote environs of Australia helped to shape the music that ultimately became this 2-CD set of  music? How did your supporting players figure into this CD as a whole and  how did they become attuned to the vision of the music that you created?

SRDreamtime Return was certainly a culmination of my deepest desires and aspirations up to that point.

It's where I feel I came into my own as an artist. It was really an initiation for me on many levels including the connection to my own sound that I was constantly searching out. Most of all, it was a time of intensive personal growth and understanding.  With the music, I felt that I'd left a lot of the European influences behind at that point, integrating them as well. This is when  the relationship to my own land in which I'd grown up became really clear to me, starting with Western Spaces. Also  the feeling of a sonic and spiritual bridge between the Southwest and the Australian outback was awakening.

I spent a lot of time in Joshua Tree outside of L.A. in the desert region. I grew up in the Southern California Deserts, Anza Borrego and others. So all of that was there for me to connect to in a deeply personal way. I was feeling a sense of spiritual expansion, out from beyond the desert I grew up in and was inspired by, to a much larger, less familiar landscape.

This is when the Dreamtime concept started to unfold, Around this time I also saw the film by Peter Weir, The Last Wave, and heard the first didgeridoo. That introduced me to at least a white film maker version of certain mystical aspects of the Dreamtime and Aboriginal culture in it's own obviously diluted way. But still, it was a significant step in my growing fascination with Australia. I had a friend who moved to Australia in the 60's and came back with great stories of this faraway place that captivated me. It was  alive in my subconscious for years. In the mid 80's I was starting to work on preliminary pieces for Dreamtime Return, just gathering different impressions with no idea that I would be going to Australia. I really hadn't thought about it much more than just fascination concerning the other worlds out there, that you can travel to in your imagination. 

Knowing I was working on this project, which was around 1986,  the owner of Fortuna Records , Ethan Edgecomb, sent me a book "Archaeology of the Dreamtime". Probably within a month of receiving that book and reading it -- which was from more of a anthropological point of view of the Australians Aboriginals in the Cape York area ( of Australia) -- I received a phone call from a film maker who was working on a film called the  Art of the Dreamtime. Using that very same book as a reference, he was producing a documentary for PBS and planning an expedition to that very same remote area in Cape York with a film crew from a university. One thing led to another, and I became the musician / composer on that expedition. They took care of everything for me so I was one of the crew members. It was just an unbelievable turn of events. The film maker said he first heard my music when he was traveling to Mexico through Texas and Structures from Silence was playing on  the radio late at night across the desert.

I remember him saying that he felt like he was in a Stanley Kubrick film. 

The feeling of  synchronicity was overwhelming at times. Along with being in those  remote Aboriginal sites for weeks, the entire project  brought up so much in me that went way beyond music. Being at these sites, sleeping on the same dirt as the ancient people of the land and listening to pieces on headphones that I'd already created back in the Timeroom before I ever imagined I would go to Australia was unforgettable.

 This was also when I met Aboriginal Didgeridoo player David Hudson, who I went on to produce 3 didgeridoo records for. He taught me to play the didg. As far as the others that were guests on the CD, my vision and focus with the project had such a strong life of its own with all these experiences described above that the elements I gathered for the project fell together in a  natural way. The timing was right on all levels. Robert Rich created some perfect percussion tracks for me at just the right time. Kevin Braheny had just completed building his EWI instrument  that is featured on "The Other Side." It just goes on and on....

So it was a tremendous opening for me as an artist, as a human being, and as a person who really listens with their ear to the ground very closely. That to me was a direct experience of how magical things can happen when you listen with your heart and mind.

They continue to spiral out unfolding with a natural order. I  feel the uninterrupted connection still reverberating from that point -- the understanding that I came to during the 2 years of making Dreamtime Return.

By 1989 I was back in Australia for a second adventure that led to the project, Australia - Sound of the Earth.

Its was directly after this second trip to Australia that I moved to Tucson and started a new life with Linda Kohanov. Funny sidenote is that David Hudson came for a visit here in Tucson in the early 90's with his fiance Cindy and ended up getting married in the desert behind my house. He was taken with how much Tucson felt like Alice Springs-central Australia , the place where they met originally. They were inspired by the parallels between the two deserts, how Tucson was able to bring up similar feelings for them. Since they were on an extended holiday, they rose to the moment.

AV:  Does commercial viability enter into your decisions when composing and recording the music that will eventually end up on your next release?

SR:  Never. I just do what I do for my inner need and creative impulses. The creative choices are often spelled out by the flow of pieces and the nature of the shape they take in the Timeroom and in my life before entering the creative space or listening to them out in the world.

One example is after leaving the Fortuna - Celestial Harmonies label after talks with Hearts of Space -Fathom resulted in contract for a few solo releases.

They said nothing about the content, just the delivery date. I worked for quite a while on the music but never played it for any one besides Linda. I delivered the Magnificent Void, perhaps one of the more demanding deep listening pieces of my catalog. I know that some of the people in the press department at Fathom were grumbling about this amorphous complex ode to the void, what does it all mean and how do we promote this?.( Lucky for me they hired an outside promotion person) and to make a long story short is the way it went on to do quite well, outperforming  a release at the same time on their sister label of a calculated nature on the pop side of the fence.

It's clear by now that I create my own brand of music and the labels know what they are getting into if we work together If you want to see a pretty easy-going guy shapeshift into a jaguar that will go for the jugular then just start messing with my creative process and the integrity of my music.

I never judge the success of any of my releases by how many they sell or whatever. It's curious to see how they do, but it has no bearing on what I will do next, case in point being the solo guitar album Midnight Moon, which I created for intensely personal reasons. Projekt Records knew this and felt it respectfully. To other labels that operate more on second guessing, this was another potential "problem child" of a release, one  that turned out to sell very respectfully in the end.

Having worked with a variety of labels and label owners I have to say working with Sam Rosenthal is great. We have a direct, no bullshit way of getting things done. The respect is mutual and since he is an artist he knows this side of the fence as well. We have realistic expectations for this artform, one that is pretty much off the map and under the radar but no less vital because of it. 

AV:  What process do you go through when deciding what will and won't be included in a CD release?

SR:  Gut feeling, instinct, creating a flow and balance that just feels right. In allot  of my music, the creating of a journey is vital to the sequence.

If it's a single, long form piece or several movements woven together, then the feeling that one piece creates as its set up for the next is really important. Quite often, the point at which the pieces melt is where the real magic can occur as well.

AV:  Is there some formula that you use to sequence the music so that each song fulfills its purpose to the whole of the composition?

SR:  I have no formula since every project takes on a different shape and set of harmonic-sonic-mythic puzzles to solve.

The beauty of using the computer for non-linear arrangement has created  the potential for carving out the perfect flow. My first project to use this mode was the Magnificent Void.

Now more than ever the feeling of creating a film is the best way to compare the process. The editing of a film along with the texture and grain of the film itself, the processing, can drive it, slow it down, sweep one away.... whatever... I get tremendous inspiration from films in this way.

Since I never really do "songs" many of the long form pieces are created from many different elements that, once woven into the fabric, serve many proposes in the big picture.

I also find myself deep into the eleventh hour mastering with Roger and suddenly feeling the need to add or change a section.

I have often gone from him mastering a section directly to the studio to create a section or remix a piece for a different ending in order to get it the way it must be. It's interesting having grown up with analog equipment, synchs,recording equipment, the organic influence has created a foundation that can absorb whatever new approach comes along while still keeping the priorities straight in terms of keeping the human element alive in the machine. Since this was the only way to create in the "old days," with  the analog gear nothing could be stored in memory, you always had to approach it in the moment with these living sounds.

The Tao of  the soundcurrent. 

AV:  What kind of relationships do you have with the musicians that you collaborate with on your various projects? Is it a give and take kind of process or do you lay down what you would like to see and then everyone works within those parameters?

SR:  It's very complex and unique to each project. True collaborations, the ones that I am interested in exploring are based on more than musical ambitions.

I feel fortunate to have met a few friends on the planet that are real brothers before music. The richness that comes though mutual respect and the understanding of common desires and spiritual pursuits in the music and in life is made real by the work itself over time. My work with Vidna Obmana over the years has reflected this perfectly and our recent chapter in going to the edge in the concert setting has been another exciting discovery of the understanding we share in the studio and in life. My current collaboration with Vir Unis is exploring a kind of collaboration where the mutual focus is maintained through us both having the same computer-based system for recording, arranging and transforming. We can start a piece and continuously send it back and forth, updating and evolving the piece at a high level.

Before and during  this project we have shared hours of discussions of many diverse topics beyond the music that helped create the atmosphere that "Blood Machine" was born in.

Other projects will call for musicians to work in a session-like setting giving their special talents to a project as a part of the whole.

True collaborations, are based on more than musical ambitions. It's the alchemical potential to create something  that could only be reached by the fusion of the collaborators.

AV:  Do your personal spiritual ideas and beliefs shape and craft your music  in any particular direction? Is this a conscious effort on your part or is it simply the deeper parts of you finding avenues to the surface?

SR:  I truly feel the complexity of what makes me a human being and drives me to create this music is something that can never be measured and explained in terms conveniently reduced to a string of words. Starting with the impulses and urges of early man deep in my memory up to now, I feel compelled to make sense of the chaos and beauty around and within me, give it meaning and feel more whole and alive for our time on this planet.

As far back as I can remember, the realm of ineffable feelings that would emerge in everyday life haunted me. When I discovered the way to express this world through sound, things just fell into place in many ways.

It feels like it's enough to just say I have to create my music in the same way I have to breathe. It's not a question if it's pleasing or disturbing to other people, or record companies and so on. I do it for myself before anything else.

AV:  Where do you see the ambient music field moving over the next few years?

SR:  There is an advertisement  in the current music tech magazines that asks the question of the artist  "innovate or imitate?".  It's up to those making the music to meet the challenge of having all the tools anyone could ever ask for and then having something to say that is connected to the bigger picture and that comes from a genuine place. I have always seen this indefinable sound-art as an outlet for the innately talented that not too long ago might have never found their way to express these worlds. This means more and more people  like myself that did not fit into the conformity of academic demands or give into the imprisonment of creativity in the conventional matrix of the music business  can create their own way with true independence. I feel the best qualities of this music are evolving in exciting ways, in all the sub genres. It's a moot point to say the boundaries are dissolving; it's a big boiling pot of humanity by now. I say just keep stirring it, adding new ingredients and trying new recipes while staying connected to the soulful qualities that move one to create in the first place. The good stuff will rise and the rest will fall away like it always has. One thing for sure is there will be more of both extremes.

AV:  Judging from your site you have embraced the move to using streaming media to let your music be heard, what is your view of the current controversy surrounding MP3's and their use on the Internet?

SR:  As an independent artist its the best thing to happen since the CD burner and the Internet itself. I see it as a great way to get the music to people that might not have the chance due to the stranglehold  pop culture has on the traditional radio, press and TV.  I see a mutation that involves taking the college radio paradigm, mixing it with syndicated shows like Hearts of Space and Echoes, splicing this into specialized on-line magazines and then including the Artists sites, all the links and so on. Put all this in the hands of the people directly, and you have a great system to empower the individual.

Just this past week end Cliff Tuel the beloved Webmaster of my site created the opportunity for the new Early Man 2CD release to stream all weekend from my site. This was a first for us and very successful with great response.

The best way to get the word out about the music is to hear it directly. I feel it's a great alternative to the  written review where the music is often used as a soap box to express the writers personal subjective opinion.

Nothing is like hearing for yourself and not being told what to listen to. 

Since this music is never advertised that much this is a great way to help get beyond the ambient ghetto. As an artist that makes his living directly from his work, I am not in favor of uncontrolled "stealing" of my work. Again using the radio as a format, the need to find some way to compensate the artist who are providing the "software" to broadcast in the first place is vital.  I feel the entire controversy with Napster and so on is more telling of how our society has devalued music, expecting it for free without considering what it takes to create it in the first place. In my case it's not a privilege, it's been hard earned at many personal costs. Its a complex situation but for the time being I am happy to use the site as a way to share the music to new and established listeners. I am still a believer in manufactured CD's as the preferred medium for now and feel the reliability  and quality along with the complete vision that goes into the real deal when holding it in your hand is hard to beat until it becomes obvious that direct downloads or whatever is the status quo.

AV:  With your constant schedule of releases, touring and studio work when is  it that you get to sit down and rest  during the course of the year? What is it that you like to do to unwind after an intense period of activity?

SR:   I get nourishment and energy on many levels from being in the soundcurrent everyday and from where I live and of course my relationship with Linda and our interspecies family.  I have my daily and weekly downtime which often involves mountain biking (off road bicycle)  through the AZ outback. I have been an avid MTBiker for years and I could go on for a few pages about the rarified state of mind one can get to after several hours of climbing, descending, exploring your way into a remote canyon or mesa, and then finding yourself back in the Timeroom 4 hours later.

The time after returning from traveling from concerts is when the well is most run dry to the point of being nearly catatonic. The energy to put the music out as I do in the live setting is intense since what I do is more than a concert for me in terms of the mental and technical perpetration. I really feel it down in my marrow, both in satisfaction and also to the ragged edge at which it takes me to. I  love playing live, and it always brings new discoveries and pieces into form. It's just a question keeping it all in balance. I am currently taking time away from playing live until 2002. Not sure if I will hold out that long.

AV:  Any final thoughts for your many fans about what's next for Steve Roach  in the near future?

SR:  Elegant Futurism. This is my term for what's next with the Blood Machine. This best describes the sound I have been carving up with Vir Unis over the past few years, starting with Body Electric and then Light Fantastic. We moved through many pieces before what became the cohesive whole that is the Blood Machine. This project was just completed and will be out by April. We kept a clear focus on finding a sound we could not describe or compare to anything. We just continued to create pieces that took us to the next place and the next piece in the puzzle. It's positively charged music, very stimulating and life affirming.

We created every sound from zero and infused it with the qualities that make Electronic music so powerful on a personal level when all is said and done.

Beyond that I always have several fires burning at once where one project feeds the other. Two of these will be coming later this year but they are still being formed. This is my favorite place, within the music as its being created and coming into form.

AV: I would like to take this opportunity to thank you for speaking with us and sharing some of your thoughts about how the music so many of us enjoy is made. You've also given us a glimpse of the man behind the music and that goes a long way towards allowing us to understand why pieces were written and why they ended up like they did. I wish you great success in your future projects and I along with all our readers anxiously look forward to that next release.  

SR:  Thank you for the opportunity to stretch out, and many thanks to the readers and listeners.


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