Strange Space and the Further Adventures of the Umbrella Girl
An exploration of Strange Gravity, new music from Craig Padilla and Marvin Allen.
For many centuries, outer space, with its infinite number of galaxies, stars, moons and planets, has been an inspiration to the arts. As revealed in the surviving books of the Hsüan Yeh school, from the 2nd-century, astronomer Zhang Heng became convinced that space must be infinite, the heavens were boundless, empty and void of substance. "The sun, moon, and the company of stars float in the empty space, moving or standing still."
The term "outward space" was used in 1842 by the English poet Lady Emmeline Stuart-Wortley, in her poem "The Maiden of Moscow." In the 20th century, experimentation with emerging electronics led to the first electronic musical instruments, and connecting with a tradition of contemplative sound experience whose roots are ancient and diverse, invoking transcendent cosmic feelings of existence in deep space and travel in the night sky.
When rock music was new, space exploration was new. Exploring outer space began during the 20th century with the advent of high-altitude balloon flights, from there things got much more expensive. Deep space is any region beyond cislunar space, which is the region outside Earth's atmosphere and extending out to just beyond the Moon's orbit. The stars are close tonight and yet 2,000 Light Years are still a long way from home.
In his 1998 book Space is the Place, John F. Szwed quotes Norman Mailer back in 1956, who said that "a friend took me to hear a jazz musician named Sun Ra who played 'space music.' " According to Sun Ra himself, also in 1956, "When I say space music, I'm dealing with the void, because that is of space too... So I leave the word space open, like space is supposed to be."
According to Thomas B. Holmes, in his book Electronic and Experimental Music: Pioneers in Technology and Composition, in 1967 Karlheinz Stockhausen said "... Many listeners have projected that strange new music which they experienced—especially in the realm of electronic music—into extraterrestrial space. Even though they are not familiar with it through human experience, they identify it with the fantastic dream world. Several have commented that my electronic music sounds 'like on a different star,' or 'like in outer space.' Many have said that when hearing this music, they have sensations as if flying at an infinitely high speed, and then again, as if immobile in an immense space."
John Diliberto (of Echoes radio), in his on-line music glossary, (Archived 2007-06-14 at the Wayback Machine) wrote that "The early innovators in electronic 'space music' were mostly located around Berlin. The term has come to refer to music in the style of the early and mid-1970s works of Klaus Schulze, Tangerine Dream, Ash Ra Tempel, Popol Vuh and others in that scene. The music is characterized by long compositions, looping sequencer patterns, and improvised lead melody lines."
Stephen Hill, co-founder with Anna Turner, of the radio program Hearts of Space, wrote in his essay, What is spacemusic? "When you listen to space and ambient music you are connecting with a tradition of contemplative sound experience whose roots are ancient and diverse. The genre spans historical, ethnic, and contemporary styles. In fact, almost any music with a slow pace and space-creating sound images could be called spacemusic."
Richard Strauss and György Ligeti brought new dimensions to the universe of classical symphonic performance arts, and later "Telstar" by The Tornados took the concept of space music in a completely different direction. Space music typically causes the listener to feel a sense of spatial imagery and emotion or sensations of floating, cruising, flying and other transportative sensations. Major Tom is coming home.
Gravity is one of the oldest studies of physics. Strange Gravity is a new album on the Spotted Peccary Music label, instrumental space music created using electric guitar, synthesizers and theremin, a series of explorations of distant territories. This is a dialog between two inspired friends, guitar and synthesizer, taking us on a journey to places previously unrecognized and considered implausible. The album was mastered by Ben Cox at Syndrome Studio (recently remodeled!).
Gravity is responsible for many of the large-scale structures in the universe, and Strange Gravity contains wordless dreams beamed from the otherworlds, bringing a cargo of ideas and mysterious atmospheres, with some new experiments for the positioning of sounds in the wilderness. There are extra-fast stars, an occasional flyby anomaly, perhaps some stars at the edges of galaxies are orbiting at different speeds than should be possible.
I had the opportunity to ask Craig Padilla and Marvin Allen some questions about their new music projects and how their journey brought them here, and I also managed to include Daniel Pipitone and Chuck van Zyl in this discussion. There is a section at the end of this article called FOOTLINKS where you can follow up and learn more about many of the people mentioned herein.
Photograph of Marvin and Craig by Colleen Roady.
"With more than 40 releases over the course of his prolific career, Craig Padilla has proven to be a driving force in the current electronic music scene. Never letting technology overcome the humanity in his compositions, he creates electronic music that is rooted in tradition while still sounding new, interesting and fresh. Craig has always endeavored to create engaging musical landscapes as experiences to be treasured and played indefinitely."
"Marvin Allen is a northern California based multi-instrumentalist, singer-songwriter, performer, and music educator. As an accomplished musician, he has been lending his talents to numerous jingles, recording sessions, and short film soundtracks for many years. He also co-founded the Shasta Blues Society and continues to mentor many talented youths. His 2019 collaboration with longtime friend Craig Padilla is Allen’s first foray into the world of ambient electronic music."
Daniel Pipitone is the amazing visual designer at Spotted Peccary Music. He is located in Mt. Lebanon, Pennsylvania and has practiced as a graphic designer for over two decades for what he calls pixels, paper & spaces. He has worked for a wide range of clients including small firms, large agencies and in-house design teams, both as a team member and design manager. One of his passions is collaborating with musical artists and his friends at Spotted Peccary Music creating the album artwork and creative directing the independent music label. “I am a visual designer, husband, father and I feel deeply responsible for doing the right kind of work.”
Chuck van Zyl has been making his own unique style of electronic music since 1983, and is well known as the most prominent host of STAR'S END, WXPN's renowned radio program of spacemusic dreamscapes, and as coordinator of The Gatherings, Philadelphia's premiere concert series of innovative music.
These biographical notes were collected directly from their respective webpages, for the most part I have reproduced them rather than distort them with my idiosyncratic presentational flair. Here is where the strange interview begins. It was conducted using email and the questions often came about differently than in the order presented here. Now you know why there is strange gravity almost everywhere you look once you first start sensing it.
Robin James: Thank you for your time, I would like to start by asking you to dive right in with the ultimate question, what is music? Human beings have many unique characteristics compared with other creatures here on Earth, including the use of speech, story telling, and the preservation of history, so what is this ear-based thing we call "music?"
Marvin Allen: Music is many things to me. It is, in short, what I am here to do. It's my hobby, how I make my living, how I perceive my self worth and my spirituality. Having said that, music is what you want it to be. It comes from math and vibration, and ends up being a vehicle for expression. The only things I have ever done for a living is teach, perform, and record music.
RJ: Much of your solo work that I have heard displays your abilities as a singer-songwriter, and yet on this project with Craig you are entirely instrumental, some would say that is a different universe than the singing side of your work. What is the music related activity that brings you the most satisfaction?
MA: Teaching music is the coolest job in the world. Getting to inspire youngsters and lead them by example is such a great honor. For me, teaching is not a "one size fits all" thing. It is something I customize based on the person sitting in front of me. I give each student a good grounding in the fundamentals, and give them the opportunity to perform, improvise, and compose. I also expose them to both older and newer music to expand their horizons.
Photograph of Marvin Allen by Craig Padilla.
RJ: How would you explain to a youngster what they might need to know about discovering and developing their personal creative process?
MA: I would start by telling them about my experiences in writing as a tool for self expression and a way to tell the truth about how they see the world. I would encourage them to get comfortable on an instrument so that they can support themselves as well as collaborate with others. I would be certain to emphasize the importance of improvising as well as understanding structure. Another important lesson is learning to ignore fear, whether it is self-imposed or put on you by someone else! Every child is an artist until they are told that they aren't.
RJ: Now that we have tackled music and the nature of transferring and nourishing the love of music, how about the other side of the equation, what is listening?
MA: There is casual listening where the music is background, and there are different methods of deep listening. For example, one kind of method might focus on the meaning of the lyrics; another might be focusing on an individual instrument, or how the instruments fit together, or how the mix or overall tone is. As someone who has used the act of listening to analyze music almost every day of my life, I can imagine something in my mind and it feels like I am hearing it in my ears.
In my life, I have made a lot of different styles of music. As a young man, I toured the Pacific Northwest with club bands, and was known for my fiery rock electric guitar work. All during that time (and for my own enjoyment) I was writing songs and improvising with the acoustic guitar and piano. Some of those pieces came together on my album "Dedication." This album was more of a singer-songwriter album where I played all the instruments, and was more concerned with storytelling over any type of flash. So, after working on "Dedication" for about a year, I was ready to do something else. And Craig and I discovered that we had a powerful chemistry doing this instrumental music that connected our rather broad set of influences into a cohesive sound all our own. Once I got my Strymon Reverb and Delay pedals and got together with Craig, our sound was born, and it has never had anything to do with singing!
Photograph of Craig Padilla by Colleen Roady.
RJ: Craig, how would you describe your journey toward this strange new gravity? How does this project fit in with the rest of your time?
Craig Padilla: In addition to being a full-time musician, I'm a full-time video and sound producer, specializing in TV commercials. Producing music and video are almost one and the same to me because I'm making visual art with both forms of media. Video is something you see and hear with your eyes and ears, and music is something to be seen and heard with the ears.
Strange Gravity is a continuation of what we began with Toward the Horizon about the story of the Umbrella person, and how she represents all of us regarding how we gravitate towards others. The music is a natural progression from the first album to this one with more ambient rock music filled with melodic sensibilities and experimental ideas. Some of the music on this album and our first album was created during the same recording sessions.
MA: Strange Gravity is the collection of the pieces we thought fit together best as an artistic statement. The sound of the album is a blend of Craig's Berlin-School and ambient tendencies connecting with my bluesy classic rock leanings. The title, Strange Gravity, relates to the way Craig and I are drawn towards a common center.
CP: Every time Marvin and I get together to create music, we constantly apply techniques that we've learned and used in the past to develop musical ideas by way of experimentation. Strange Gravity features tracks that we worked on together in the studio; one track features music that was written years ago by Marvin that we recently developed together, and another track was initially recorded as a lengthy improvisation.
RJ: How do you prepare for a recording session? Do you mentally visualize traveling in deep space towards worlds unknown?
MA: I get prepared mentally by believing that I will find the right thing to play at the right time. I make sure I have a pallet of tones on hand that will enhance our work and always show up with an open mind, ready for work.
CP: We prepare mentally by planning a day to create together and the rest falls into place naturally. We start our creative morning with a brain-boosting energy drink and some food with some hot sauce to get our minds burning!
MA: Oddly, when we are creating our music, I usually do my best work without prior planning. It's mostly instinctive. I just listen deeply and trust that magic can happen.
RJ: I am looking at the list of instruments used for the album, I see that you have a theremin! That is one of those old fashioned science fiction movie sound effects. There has to be a cool story there.
Photograph of Marvin playing the theremin by Craig Padilla.
CP: On the title track, Marvin used a homemade theremin that he built with his Brother-In-Law. The experience was something new and fun for both of us!
MA: The theremin was a fun electronics project-build that my brother-in-law and I soldered together one afternoon. The one we made isn't very sophisticated, but they are fun to play with. And I did use it briefly on the title track.
I really enjoy listening to Amethyste Spardel's beautiful Theremin clips on Facebook and learning more about her music, as well as that of her husband, Gunnar Spardel. Gunnar releases music under his own name and as "Tigerforest."
RJ: Tell me some more about the other instruments and equipment used in creating Strange Gravity.
CP: The epic track, "All Around Us," features sequencer and synthesizer work that was created using the MST/Division 6 Modular Synthesizer, custom built by George Mattson. And I used the usual array of analog and digital synths.
MA: All of my guitar parts were recorded directly through the speaker simulator on my Strymon BigSky reverb pedal. In front of the BigSky are the Strymon Timeline delay, an Ernie Ball stereo volume pedal, the Menatone Blue Collar overdrive, a Muff Fuzz, and original Univibe Phase Shifter. I also like to use the Ebow for sustaining notes both with my fingers and with a glass slide.
CP: The guitar is really fun to play because it can be a very expressive instrument (especially when Marvin plays it). However, once I discovered the synthesizer, it fascinated me that a musician could use this electronic instrument to create any imaginable sound and make music with it. It's like a painter having an infinite amount of colors to use.
RJ: I have been asking different musicians for an explanation of what is meant by the Berlin School of electronic music, what does Berlin School mean to you?
CP: The definition of the "Berlin School" style of music stems from the early German music pioneers who specialized in electronic music using sequencers that would play repeating music patterns, originated in the early 70's by Ash Ra Tempel (which later became "Ashra"), Tangerine Dream, and Klaus Schulze.
RJ: So, what is space music? How does that genre of music fit into what you are doing?
MA: Our music does lend itself to visualizing space. Also for me personally, it always brings images of aerial and underwater videography.
RJ: I understand that most if not all musicians do not want to be categorized as this or that, as if to say, oh, all they do is Space music or Space rock or Chill-out music, or Downtempo, or Drone music, etc. From here on, let there be no more genre talk. What should be said about what you are doing together on this project?
CP: I feel that Marvin and I have really great skill-sets that compliment each other incredibly well. Marvin is a really great friend to work with, and a talented multi-instrumentalist with an extremely keen ear with music. There are no egos when we're in the studio working together. Both of us have very open minds to each other's ideas which is what makes it so fun and easy to work with each other.
RJ: I see from the program notes on the album itself that the title track "Strange Gravity" was first included in a special edition of the Star's End radio program by Chuck van Zyl. How did that come about?
MA: Chuck van Zyl had asked Craig what he had been doing lately and invited us to submit a piece for a Halloween/Fall based show that he was doing on his Star's End radio program. Strange Gravity became that piece, and our collaboration got its first airplay courtesy of Chuck (prior to our first album being released). More recently, Chuck also invited us to send in a song, even if it was just a work-in-progress, about how we were keeping our creativity going during the pandemic. (Not surprisingly, the songs we submitted will end up on our third collaboration.) So we wish to celebrate Chuck van Zyl for reaching out to the artists and the listeners in such an organic and cool way.
CP: Chuck van Zyl is an amazing man. I don't know how he has time to listen to music to be featured in his 5-hour radio show. Does he even sleep?? Chuck had approached me to create a track for a special Halloween/Fall-themed program he was putting together. I informed him that I was creating an album (Toward the Horizon) with Marvin at the time and I thought it would be cool to get Marvin on board to help create a special piece of music which would be a great way to help promote our first album while also promoting the special edition of Chuck's Star's End radio program. It also turned out to be a great excuse to create a new piece of music that we could use on our second collaboration. The result was the title track to Strange Gravity!
RJ: How about if I just ask him. Chuck, how did you make this contribution to your radio program Star's End happen?
Chuck van Zyl: Back in Fall of 2015 I came up with the idea of presenting a broadcast of Star's End Ambient Radio made up entirely of new music, material that was created by a range of artists expressly for one special edition of the program. I saw that the 12.20.15 broadcast would fall just prior to that year's Winter Solstice/Christmas Holiday, and so thought that such a Special Broadcast on this weekend would be a wonderful gift to the listeners. I also thought this activity might be a good way to get to re-connect with distant friends, or to make the acquaintance of some bright talents. So I contacted several musicians with the details of my scheme, and pretty soon I began collecting the tracks, and fitting them together into a playlist. So motivated was Craig by this project that he submitted two pieces, the solo track "A Festive Awakening" as well as "Spirit Holy Rising" with Howard Givens - both of which I was very pleased to receive and air. In 2016 I had another go at a Special Broadcast of Star's End, this time for a Halloween theme edition on 10.30.16. Craig was one of the first people I contacted about contributing a track for this effort, and he came through with "Strange Gravity" made with his pal Marvin Allen on guitar.
RJ: Thanks for your insight, Chuck, and for taking the time to respond to my question, and most of all, thanks for all that amazing electronic music! Eventually I would like to follow up more in depth with exploring Star’s End, and your passion for music and the amazing projects you have going, such as The Gatherings.
Next Strange Gravity question: while you were working on this, are there things along the way that changed? Things that were unexpected?
MA: One thing that changed is on the song "Friendship," I did quite a lot of pre-arranging on it and then opened it up to Craig in the middle. It was a piece which I had written many years ago and I wanted to expand upon it. The Daren Farris who “Friendship” was dedicated to was my best friend and guitar buddy from my childhood who sadly passed in 1990. On a personal note, he taught me my first chords on the guitar. I felt like it was time to give this little tone poem I had written for him “a new set of shoes,” (meaning a revision) and to open it up in collaboration with Craig. It came out so well that we included it.
CP: Besides the usual melodic, ambient, and Berlin School influences of the past, Marvin influences the way that I create ideas for our collaboration. And the artwork of "The Adventures of the Umbrella Girl" created by Daniel Pipitone, continues to be influential to both of us when we are creating musical ideas to continue the story of this person and the fabulous world she discovers. Hopefully, the song titles on this album reflect that idea.
RJ: Now that the door to the album art is open, let's talk about the umbrella...
CP: The Umbrella Girl is actually my daughter, Melodee Padilla. It originated from a photograph taken by a high school student named Hannah May. They were on a field trip visiting Seattle, Washington a few years ago with their music class. While walking in the city, Hannah had noticed that the streets were suddenly free from traffic for a moment.
Melodee Padilla: I just remember that the whole thing happened really quickly. Hannah told me (completely out of the blue) to walk down the street while holding the umbrella. I was totally confused, but I went along with it. It was absolutely spontaneous, lasting about 10 seconds! She then told me that she thought it would be a great shot for a picture.
CP: When Melodee showed us the picture, we were very impressed with it and had it framed. I thought that it would be a great idea for an album cover for Toward the Horizon. When Marvin came over, he noticed the picture and thought it would make a great cover, too. So we sent it to Daniel, and he worked his amazing magic with the image, turning it into artwork across multiple panels which conveys a story of a wandering Umbrella Girl in a strange world. Marvin and I noticed that the inner art of our first album was a sort of precursor to our next album (whether Daniel knew it or not) because it conveyed a sense of strange gravity. We had already had a title for Strange Gravity during the making of our first album, but we didn't share this info with anybody because we wanted to wait until the first album was released. And yet it seemed as if Daniel had somehow tapped into our heads prior to us telling him about our second album!
MA: The Umbrella Girl is on her journey toward the horizon. Along the way, she encounters spaces with many different perspectives, i.e., strange gravity on the way to finding friendship, to finding others like her, and to finding the place where she belongs.
CP: Perhaps Daniel would like to elaborate on this. Marvin and I have our own personal thoughts about it. I would like the listener to interpret the story themselves. I feel the same way about the music. The music and visuals, like most art, is left for the individual to decide what they think.
RJ: Daniel Pipitone is the Creative Director at Spotted Peccary who shapes the visual aspects of pretty much all the albums in the catalog there, working to extend each musician’s story for their art into the visuals connected to their projects – to tell their projects “story.” He also works to position the label through their online and off-line branding – everything from what you see on the website to social media to all of the colorful physical promotional presentations.
Daniel, what is your side of the story of the umbrella theme for both Toward the Horizon and Strange Gravity?
Daniel Pipitone: Craig, Marvin and I have been developing this story together – evolving it an improvisational way – “writing” the story as they reveal their new music to me from release to release. It’s really turning into an “emotionally epic“ adventure starring who we call the "umbrella girl," who we’ve set on a journey to "find what she's looking for in humanity" – be it knowledge, compassion, friendship, etc. Her journey has taken her to some very otherworldly landscapes so far. No one knows where the journey will lead next – we look forward to letting the music decide that!
RJ: Thank you Daniel, for your time and insight, and thanks for all those amazing visual treasures you create.
DP: You’re very welcome – and thanks for looking and listening!
All of the album design themed illustrations are by Daniel Pipitone.
RJ: When did you both know that Strange Gravity was going to be a thing, an album? There must have been a moment that the title emerged and the whole concept became a new album.
CP: We knew that Strange Gravity was going to be an album the moment we started creating the title track and "The Revelation." Both tracks were created while we were finishing the songs on our first album.
RJ: Will there be a third collaboration? If so, what might we expect?
CP: Our third album will be a natural continuation of our artistic growth.
RJ: Ah, so there will be a continuation of the project, and that is where you are headed next, now let's look backwards. Marvin, where did you come from and where do you live now? What is it like there? How did you find music?
MA: I was born in Redding, California, and currently live in Cottonwood, California. Our area is filled with beautiful places. Our lakes, creeks, mountains, and trees have always been a rich source of inspiration and backdrop for quiet reflection.
My grandparents raised me, and they were both music teachers, so it was a part of my life since I was four years old. My Grandmother was the church organist and pianist, so I was able to witness her doing that as well as teaching her private lessons 5 days a week and performing a lot. All of that had a huge impact on me.
RJ: Where are the most beautiful places that you have experienced music?
MA: Several times in the last decade, I got to play in the Cascade Theatre in Redding, California. It's a lovely old art deco style theatre. Another beautiful theatre of that style is the paramount theatre in Oakland, California. where I got to see Jeff Beck.
RJ: You are an accomplished guitarist, you can do anything you want with your instrument, your ax, as they used to say. Who lit your fire?
MA: There are a number of guitarists who have played a part in helping me to find my own voice in our music. Robin Trower, Jimi Hendrix, Jimmy Page, Jeff Beck, David Gilmore, Brian May, and Andrew Latimer (of Camel) have all been influential on me. The biggest influence on our music has been the way Craig's influences mix with mine.
RJ: Going waaaaay back, if you had to pick just one band, who would you name?
MA: Led Zeppelin had the biggest and longest lasting impact on me.
RJ: I see now that it is just not fair to have only one, that was a silly question. Anyone else? Who would you bring to that proverbial desert island if you could only pick a few?
MA: Well, I would have to have Pink Floyd Wish You Were Here, Dark Side of the Moon, and Animals; all the Led Zeppelin albums; all the classic albums by Robin Trower; Free; and Bad Company (to name a few). There are also continuous strong releases by our label mates on Spotted Peccary Music that are inspiring and in constant rotation around here.
RJ: What motivates you as a musician?
MA: My task as a musician is to connect with my inspiration in as pure a way as possible, and to elevate the music and the other musicians in a selfless way.
RJ: Craig, we have previously discussed your musical approach when the album The Bodhi Mantra came out last summer, so perhaps now we can build on that. I would like to go a bit deeper into your decisions along the way as you were discovering your path. Where did you find your direction for exploring your musical possibilities? You started with the guitar, and shifted over to synthesizers.
CP: In 1986, I was steering away from playing my guitar because I was more fascinated by the variety of sounds that a synthesizer could make, and eventually I bought my first synth. For years I had acted on stage in school. In 1989, I was attending Shasta College and was involved with the theatrical department. The head of the theatre department, Robert Soffian (who now resides doing visual art in southern California), had given me the opportunity to create music and sound effects for some theatrical plays. There was an Arp 2600 and some reel-to-reel tape machines in the soundbooth where I would stay the night many nights working on music with the Arp and my own synths until the early morning. I have many many hours of recordings from this period because I was constantly learning to create my own electronic music (using many old recycled tapes) and learning how to use the equipment on my own. The tracks from "The Heart of the Galaxy" were a result from the many hours of experimentation while being locked away in the Shasta College Theatre soundbooth!
RJ: Some of your early work was done at a place called Dancing Astronaut Studios, how did you meet Skip Murphy?
CP: I met Skip Murphy after a performance I did in 1991 at Shasta College Theatre called "Journeys Through Space 2", which was a benefit show for the theatre department. He introduced himself after the show and asked me what I was planning on doing in the future. I told him that I wanted to release a Compact Disc someday, and he replied "I'm somebody you should meet!" And we became friends and musical collaborators immediately. We've recorded and performed many many hours of music together over the years. Our paths went in different directions because he became too busy to create music. We are still great friends, but we don't create music together anymore. But I think it would be great to get him back in the studio with me in the future.
RJ: In addition to many solo albums you have done a lot of collaborative work. This includes working with the legendary Howard Givens, one of the owners of Spotted Peccary Music, who has done so much of the studio mixing and mastering. You have created three albums with him so far, and there is the interview with the two of you on the occasion of the release of The Bodhi Mantra last summer.
You have also made several albums with Zero Ohms. From his website and the Spotted Peccary artist page for Zero Ohms, I see that Richard Roberts is a writer, painter, musician, teacher, and producer. He follows a philosophy that he calls "the Tao of Zero Ohms." That translates literally to "way of no resistance." Zero Ohms aptly describes Richard’s palette of sounds, with flutes and woodwinds from around the planet interwoven with electronics, at once as ancient as it is contemporary. Playing wind-controlled synthesizers and over fifty various flutes, saxes, and other woodwinds, he embraces styles from around the globe and beyond.
CP: I really enjoy working with Zero Ohms because I really like his organic wind instruments and how he uses them to create some calm and otherworldly atmospheres. We are currently working together on a fourth album, but it's been a much slower process than usual this time, mostly because of how busy I've been with other collaborative projects. I feel that my sequencer-based style fits with his floating and atmospheric style of music.
RJ: How did you land game soundtrack gigs?
CP: This was a situation based on "It's who you know." My voice was in video games for Working Designs (and most recently Gaijinworks) because I got to know the head of the company by creating promotional videos for their games. Eventually, his son got involved with his own indie project (Space Cruesader for Xbox 360) and asked if he could use some of my music in his game. I also got to create soundtracks for some micro-budget movies because I was connected to one director who was also friends with another director. Networking.
RJ: Your first project with Spotted Peccary, released in 2002, is titled Vostok. According to my research, Vostok means "East" in Russian but may also refer to the Vostok program, which is a Soviet human spaceflight project employing a family of rockets derived from the Soviet R-7 Semyorka ICBM, and it is the name of a crater explored by the Mars rover Opportunity. But wait, there is more -- Lake Vostok is the largest of Antarctica's almost 400 known subglacial lakes, located at the southern Pole of Cold, beneath Russia's Vostok Station under the surface of the central East Antarctic Ice Sheet. All of these make me think of very remote icy cold places. This amazing album consists of one track that is almost an hour in duration, there must be one heck of an amazing creation story.
CP: Vostok was created and recorded live in one take!
At the time, I had been listening to some long-form ambient releases that were nice for background music, but not very interesting to just sit and listen. I wanted to create a piece of music that could hold the interest for a listener and yet be peaceful enough to fall asleep while it played in the background. I was inspired by an article I read in a magazine about how scientists had used satellites to discover a lake hidden underneath ice in Antarctica with water that had not been exposed to our current atmosphere. So, I had created some long looping sequencer patterns on my ESQ-1 (which was communicating with my other synths), dimmed the lights, lit some candles and incense, and I hit record and began playing. I was totally caught in the moment so much, and was really touched by what I had created, mostly because I had not created anything like it before that moment. Most of my material at the time was more upbeat. (I later recorded a second take of Vostok, but I felt that it didn't have the natural feeling of the original version.) I sent Vostok and some shorter tracks to Jim Brenholts who was writing a book about electronic music. He was very impressed with Vostok. He said his wife wasn't a fan of ambient music, but she really liked the track, too! He suggested that I send it to some record labels, one of them being Spotted Peccary Music, which expressed interest with the music and (thankfully) wanted to release it.
RJ: There is no ending, but there is a time to move on to other things. I feel like I never finish anything, I only abandon projects temporarily. Craig, Marvin, Daniel and Chuck, thank you all for helping me with this interview project, celebrating the new album Strange Gravity.