Questions from Thako Davidson June 2015

I don’t know if this interchange ever got published anywhere, but I want to share it here, because the questions were very good, so some of my answers may have been more sensitive than usual. – RR

1.  In understanding and composing the kind of genre of music that you do what would you recommend that a person do in taking that first step?

First I would say that you need to ignore any idea of a style or genre of music, and just listen to what is inside your head, and to the sounds in the world that inspire you. Ignore the music of your heroes or favorite influences, just listen to your inner voice. That’s how this music happens. In fact I usually try to avoid quoting my influences. Every step involves listening first, to normal sounds in your world, then noticing how you respond to the sound. Does the sound affect you on the skin, in the emotions, with energy or calmness, with intellectual stimulation? Then, move forward with an image in your deepest mind – the mind beyond senses – of the world you want to experience, then try to make it real in sound, always measuring it against the world that you want to exist beyond sound. 

2.  Are there any musical mentors, classes, or books you would recommend to a new upcoming artist?

The school of life, and listening to the world around you. I don’t know of any school that teaches this. You might enjoy these books: Silence by John Cage; Through Music to the Self by Peter Michael Hamel. But moreso, use other forms of art to stimulate your sonic imagination.

3.  Do you know of any equipment that a person could practice using to help unlock the creativity within self?

The best practice is to learn the art of briefly dissolving the self, as projections of ego often interfere with listening. Ignore equipment – that’s a dead-end. You can make interesting music with very little equipment. As for actual practical electronic music stuff – try experimenting with looping delays and long reverb. Experiment with half-speed and backwards sounds, and never assume that a sound is not interesting. Maybe you haven’t explored it enough?

4.  How did you learn and understand your life’s passion of music?

It just happened. I was making art since a I was very young, but somehow sound-art became my mode of communicating. I honestly expected to go into research in physics or psychophysiology. I kept making music through all my other activities and somehow it took over (… well, a lot of work went into that, but I never expected to become successful at it.) 

5.  How did you come to realize what’s your life’s purpose?

I had several moments in adolescence where I struggled with the crisis of meaning and utility in life. I wanted to save the world, but I doubted any of my abilities. I went deep into myself and realized that the role of a modern shaman was lacking in our world, someone to guide people into realms of perception. I wanted to find a way to do that, whether by science or art. I thought  – maybe – music came closest to that function, and I tried to learn how to make sound that could do that ineffable thing. I still don’t think that’s the end of the story. I joke that I am still trying to find what I’ll do when I grow up, but I also joke that music is my retirement hobby. There is no single solution, and nobody should expect to do only one thing in life. Ambiguity is essential and important for our understanding of life. 

6.  Is there a certain environment that a person needs to be in which nurtures the creativity of self, to reach into a realm in which there are no social constraints.

No. Life is a constantly shifting environment, and we need to make the most of what we have, moment to moment. It is all imperfect. The only useful prescription might be to know the environment of one’s own imagination, so that when life outside is less than perfect, we can revert to art, in an attempt to re-discover truth (not perfection – which is an unreachable target.) After all, the expulsion of Adam and Eve from Eden is a metaphor for internal states of mind. We constantly lock ourselves out of Paradise, and one purpose of art is to find the way back in. 

7.   How are you able to create the sounds that sound out of this world and at the same time is has a mystical aspect to it?

Because I aim for that – I am trying to evoke the sounds that my mind and body want to experience. I am prone towards a certain type of ecstatic search. I want my experiences to have an ineffable energy, so I strive to make music that triggers the sense that I seek. It’s an important – if maybe subtle – distinction, that of the artist creating from inside out vs. from outside in. I am using a mental technique to listen to my own work in progress as if I were a listener seeking my ideal music, rather than as the artist seeking to say the perfect thing. I shape the work from a listener’s point of view, but that listener is myself in an attempt to be as honest as possible with what I REALLY want in my life, not just entertainment or success. I am a “fan” of something unfinished trying to create my favorite album that doesn’t yet exist. It’s a bit more subtle than that, because it also involves my personal dialectic as an artist, trying to find a continuum in the life-project of what I feel to be important. But hopefully that gives some context. The technical methods to reach that place change from year to year and project to project: the technical aspect is the least important part if the process. 

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