The No.1 Website for Pro Audio
 Search This Thread  Search This Forum  Search Reviews  Search Gear Database  Search Gear for sale  Search Gearslutz Go Advanced
Welcome Steve Roach!
Old 24th August 2016
  #1
Welcome Steve Roach!

For our next guest we welcome Steve Roach, the pioneer of ambient-atmospheric electronic music, to the boards.

As an introduction, here's a (limited) summary of his long spanning carreer as composer-musician, you can check out (most of) his releases here and here.

In 1975 Steve lost two of his motocross friends in racing accidents, then had a tramatic accident himself. Many things were pointing to music and art as his future and these tragic events prompted him to make a radical life descision: He was moved by the cosmic music of Klaus Schulze, Tangerine Dream and other music from the emerging electronic music scene from Germany, then sold a lot of personal things to fund his first instruments; the Arp 2600 and Sequencer, a Micro Moog, Solina String Machine, and a Roland Space Echo. The Synthi A's in this photo of the first Timeroom were on loan from a friend.

1978 marks the date of his first concert in the "liquorice Pizza" recordstore in L.A., and became part of that generation of performing musicians. It also was then, that he started sending cassettes with his work to close friends.

Steve's first released compositions like "Now" and "Traveler", can be described as sequencer heavy, like the music the musicians from the "Berlin School" made. The track "Reflector" marks the first exploration of building compositions more focussed on harmonies.


In the seventies on the west coast of the USA, were Steve lived, ambient music became more popular. The radioshow Music From The Hearts Of Space was an important factor in this movement. It was run since it's inception in 1973 by sound designer Stephen Hill and Anna Turner. Spanning into the eightties, this scene was blossoming with creative talent.
Steve said in an interview:
Quote:
"That time was exciting. All that mattered to me was living inside this sound world and music and wanting to share with those who were open to it."
It was 1984 when Steve released his accaimed 3-track album "Structures from Silence". First a cassette release only (Soundquest label), it was picked up by Hill and reached a wider audience through radioplay.
Quote:
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.
The tracks on "Structures from Silence" are clearly different from his earlier releases, instead there was now a slow careful buildup of fragile sounds "breathing" in and out:
Quote:
With an an acoustic instrument you have to be 100% there to make a sound. Traditional instruments draw from the physical body's interaction. With synthesisers as the new instrument emerging in the 80's it was clear to me that you could almost stop breathing, lose the body connection as part of the instrument interaction, sit sprawled out in a chair and still manage to play the instrument. My way was to be fully engaged in where the body feels connected to the Synths: You instill breath in the sounds as you play, connect at a deep physical, mental level. So my entire waking and sleeping focus was to deepen this connection to the essence of sound, body and breath awareness. This was directly translated into the title track on "Structures From Slience"; playing with breath, the place in between the breath, the sigh. Just sitting in perfect stillness and playing that through the analog warmth of the Oberheim OB8 synth.
Steve said that the inspiration came from the nighttime L.A. and the Hollywood machine in a 2014 interview.
Quote:
“In its most pure form, Structures was created as a space for me to inhabit and create this sanctuary in the middle of all the energy of L.A.. It was really creating your own zone to inhabit and support and keep the sounds of the outer outside world at bay. Which is what I think is the best quality of this non-invasive, less melodic, more textural kind of art form – it’s so abundant everywhere, but I think it’s so great, because it’s so supportive of what we need today.”

"Structures from Silence" really got the attention of a lot of people in the US, many regard it as a milestone in electronic music after Brian Eno.
However, although "Structures from Silence" was well recieved in the U.K. and mainland Europe, the music from this ambient music scene never really gained the popularity it did as in the States, that is, until the internet, when the album was picked up again, elsewhere. Some of this was because the "New Age" movement from the US was generally associated with spirituality and healing, of which the commercial aspect (ironically) obscured the fact that there was an ambient music scene existing next to that.
A reissue has been released which featured different recording and mastering:
Quote:
"I went back to the original analog reel tapes for a 24bit-96khz transfer and had it remastered with high end analog equipment. I think this current version really presents the subtle warmth that was always present on the masters, but not fully realised in the previous CD versions"
Recently two tracks from that period "Emotion Revealed" and "Firelight" were released as a pay-what-you-want release:
https://projektrecords.bandcamp.com/...tions-revealed

Steve, in the seventies, supposedly lived like a monk, with only synths and a few chairs in his small appartment.
Quote:
"With an an acoustic instrument you have to be 100% there to make a sound. Traditional instruments draw from the physical body's interaction. With synthesisers as the new instrument emerging in the 80's it was clear to me that you could almost stop breathing, lose the body connection as part of the instrument interaction, sit sprawled out in a chair and still manage to play the instrument. So my entire waking and sleeping focus was to deepen this connection to the essence of sound, body and breath awareness. This was directly translated into the title track - playing with breath, the place in between the breath, the sigh. Just sitting in perfect stillness and playing that through the analog warmth of the Oberheim OB8 synth."
Because the Oberheim factory was quite close to where he lived, Steve had friends working there, he could visit, and play versions of instruments under development. So there was an intimate connection between the designers and users of these Oberheim synthesizers.
And still Steve's orginal Xpander, Matrix 12 and OB8 are his main focus and he said he prefers this over software, in a 2014 interview with Ambient Music Guide.

On the albums "Quiet Music" cassettes 1, 2 and 3 (1986) and "Dreamtime Return" (1988) Steve released after "Structures from Silence" you can hear a continuation of him exploring this sound in the tracks. "Dreamtime Return" was well recieved by the audience; it's an electro-acoustic exploration of the Australian landscape and Aboriginal Dreamtime. For this Steve travelled to the australian outback, to experience what it felt being in these aboriginal places. That is when he met Digeridoo player David Hudson. For him it was a culmination of his deepest disires and aspirations:
Quote:
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.


He returned in 1991 to find inspiration to "Australia: Sound of the Earth" with more collaborations with Aboriginal musicians.
Here's a quote about synergy combining acoustic instruments and modern electronic synthesizers. ("Electronic Music Pioneers" Ben Kettlewell)
Quote:
SR: I see the didgeridoo and my favorite analog synthesizer, the Oberheim Matrix 12 as both being high points in their own time, created out of a need to hear and create a sound that the consciousness was needing. The didgeridoo was a much earlier form of technology, one that created a rich, continuous drone in the same way as the most current synthesizer and computer setups. 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 voices, creating a harmonic atmosphere that blossoms into waves of sound, seemingly spilling forth from some other world. The rich, uninterrupted harmonic drones of the didgeridoo have an almost electronic sound that captivated me the moment I heard it. The sounds embraced each other so well, creating this electro-organic quality. I went on to explore this by extensively fusing all sorts of elemental sounds into the electric stew. The simple act of having an open microphone recording an acoustic track in the midst of a full blown electronic piece adds a since of space, injecting "air" directly into what was once a hermetically sealed world. My recordings Origins and the recent Early Man are prime examples of this synergy.
In the nineties he continued making more tribal oriented tracks, combining acoustic instruments with electronically generated sounds.

But not all. This "Infinite Shore" track from the "The Magnificent Void" (Hearts of Space 1996) is an example of the "breathing" melodic composition:


The album "Innovative Communication" is the first of many collaborations with Robert Rich, Vidna Obmana, Michael Stearns, Thom Brennan, Roger King, Michael Shrieve, Kevin Braheny, Erik Wøllo, Richard Burmer, Stephen Kent and Kenneth Newby. (to name just a few )
"Desert Walkabout" with Kevin Braheny



Steve's studio is called the "Timeroom", completely seperated from the rest of the world, it is without telephone or other distractions.
Here is some pictures from the nineties:
Welcome Steve Roach!-timeroom2.jpg
And some more recent:
Welcome Steve Roach!-timeroom_modern.jpg

During his carreer he has performed live on stage, creating improvised compositions. He was a regular at The Gatherings festivals, and played At Transonic, Projecktfest.Of these only a few were accessable for this introduction:

A picture from a live setup (rehearsal) of a concert in 1982:

And one of a concert with Elmar Schulte and Jorge Reyes in Germany 1992

And one from a concert in Tuscon the same year:

Here's a picture from the live-in-studio concert in 1997, to present the Star's End 30th anniversary anthology CD.
Welcome Steve Roach!-starsend_05202007.jpg
Two videos from a concert at Soundquest Fest in 2010:

I found two videos of 2013 concerts:

A 2015 concert in The Galactic Center (Tuscon, AZ)


From 1998 till now Steve Roach released the Timeroom Editions that were (are) available as internet downloads.
Steve entered a very prolific period around 2000, including many new collaborations with Jorge Reyes, Byron Metcalf and Vir Unis.
Since then Steve Roach has released a steady stream of quality releases, of which I only post a few in this thread. You can find most of his new releases here

Live in Tucson: Pinnacle moments: Live in Tucson - 79 min version | Steve Roach
Most recent are his "Shadow of Time" album, and two collaborations with Robert Logan called "Second Nature" and "Biosonic"



Steve makes extensive use of modulars in his recent compositions. He uses a large Synthesizers.com system and a eurorack.
Here's a video and a picture of Steve in front of his "DotCom"
Welcome Steve Roach!-dotcom.jpg
And a picture picture of the Eurorack from the mid 2000's that was used to create "Possible Planet". Apparantly this setup evolved into several smaller portable units and most of the modules have been exchanged for others.
Welcome Steve Roach!-ah.jpg
---
So… this short introduction turned out a bit longer than expected. The man has done so much music I've not even covered half.
Welcome Steve Roach, to the Q&A!
Attached Thumbnails
Welcome Steve Roach!-timeroom.jpg   Welcome Steve Roach!-timeroom2.jpg   Welcome Steve Roach!-timeroom3.jpg   Welcome Steve Roach!-starsend_05202007.jpg   Welcome Steve Roach!-steve-roach-robert-logan-2016-second-nature-.jpg  

Welcome Steve Roach!-ah.jpg   Welcome Steve Roach!-ah3.jpg   Welcome Steve Roach!-ah5.jpg   Welcome Steve Roach!-timeroom_modern.jpg   Welcome Steve Roach!-dotcom.jpg  

8
Share
Topic:
Thread Tools
Search this Thread
Search this Thread:

Advanced Search
Forum Jump
Forum Jump