What inspired you to first start making music? And how did you come to be in your current incarnation? Or if you prefer, a brief bio about you.
I recall first starting to compose music around 1995, on a 4 track tape deck. I look back on my efforts to get into recording studios, and the gatekeepers who deemed my music worthy or not- I found out eventually that most of these people were egomaniacs with an inflated sense of self-importance. So I had no choice but to learn to do these things myself. After playing in several bands in the Austin, TX area, I finally released my first solo album, “Instrumentals & Oddities”, released in 2008. By this time, the new digital paradigm of online based music licensing was just beginning, and most of the album found its way onto cable T.V., advertising, and independent films. I then set my sights on doing an album that would stand out compositionally, and with its production values. This became my latest release, “Let’s Get Surreal”.
Provide us with some info about your latest release…
It’s been about 10 years since I released my first album, “Instrumentals and Oddities”, and there was a feeling building up in me that I needed to release something new, when I started this project in the fall of 2013. I remember listening to a James Horner interview about the “Wrath of Khan” soundtrack, where he mentioned that to bring things into focus, he decided to come up with a few main themes and motifs, providing variations on each theme. This hugely inspired me, and was the creative spark that led to my latest LP release, “Let’s Get Surreal”. Compared to my first album, this one is a bit more synth heavy, even though it still has a lot of guitar and bass on it. Most of the main riffs, lead lines, and synth basses are played on an ARP Odyssey, one of my prized possessions. The record is also drenched in Mellotron. I presented the album like a resume’ of what I’m capable of, and that includes engineering and production. It’s been a major learning experience along the way, and I’m really proud of it.
Which ones would you consider your main influences both music-wise & non-music-wise?
Throughout “Let’s Get Surreal”, you’ll often hear a crescendo Mellotron swell leading into a huge chord; that’s totally down to a Genesis influence for sure. In the track “Bak1”, you’ll hear a minimal arrangement that slowly adds concentric layers of instrumentation to the mix, a la Pink Floyd; other Floyd influences are all over the album in the cross fades between soundscapes, and in experimental sound collages. You’ll also hear a funk influence throughout the album on things like “Bak3”, “Avant”, and the tail end of the Overture. Another influence would film composer Lalo Schifrin. Non musically, I’m hugely inspired by Steve Wozniak, sticking to his guns during the early days of Apple. The DIY approach, the obsession and personal sacrifice involved in not giving up your autonomy even if you don’t have a dollar to your name, when you truly believe in what you’re doing.
In what way does your sound differ from the rest genre-related artists/bands and why should we listen to your music? In other words, how would you describe your sound?
I like to assemble music in a progressive manner. Each track flows into the next seamlessly if one lets it play continuously. In this way, the album is presented like a guided tour of what I do. I also wanted to do a great job engineering, and strive for the polished production values of the late ‘70s soft rock period, while presenting compositions that are edgy, psychedelic, and progressive. I practically worship engineers like Alan Parsons and Hugh Padgham. I’m an analog freak, use an Allen & Heath analog mixing desk and tube preamps, so the record has a fat, analog outboard sound to it, sort of like a Stereolab record.
Please name your 3 desert islands albums, movies & books…
Albums: Genesis “Wind and Wuthering”, Pink Floyd “Atom Heart Mother”, and maybe Duran Duran “Rio”.
Books: Carlos Casteneda’s “Journey to Ixtlan”, the poems of Percy Bysshe Shelley, and Geoff Emerick’s “Here, There, & Everywhere”.
Films: Fantastic Planet” (1973), “Flash Gordon” (1980), and Disney’s “The Black Hole” (1979).
Do you prefer studio or performing live and why?
I will say that lately, I’ve been really getting off on the recording side of things, and confess that by the end of this project I enjoyed the production, editing, and engineering side of things as much as the composition and performance! I’m such a perfectionist and often stay up all night trying to get things right, in a very obsessive way. Recordings are like canvasses or films, and these statements will be around long after I’m gone.
Is there any funny-unique story you would like to share with us, always in relation to your music ‘career’?
I have often set up mics and equipment in the most unlikely of places. I’ve been living up in Alaska off and on for many years, and on a foggy October day a young lady friend of mine who lived in an old historic cabin let me record her vintage Hammond C-3 organ, when she left town for a few days. Strange noises and phenomena have been observed there, and it’s sort of implied that the place is haunted. Later that night, a sudden gust of wind suddenly slammed the back door shut, and I started to feel a presence, as if I was being watched. Just as I felt a chill, looking down at the hair standing up on my arms, I began to hear weird noises, pops, and random notes playing out of that organ… As if whoever was haunting that cabin was using it to communicate from the other side! This is the organ you hear on “The Eternal Laugh”. At any rate, I have a feeling that the ghost approved !
Which track of your own would you point out as the most unique and why?
“Saddam/Espace” is something I’m proud of, and is highly influenced by early Pink Floyd. I remember hearing an old Floyd bootleg from ‘72, where they played the Lord’s Prayer, looped back onto itself, until it was an abstract jumble of words, somehow making an existential statement- brilliant. That’s the approach I wanted to take a step further with this piece, in this case using George W. Bush speeches. This took me days of meticulous work, which I obsessed over. The second half of the track is an electronic soundscape, a la BBC Radiophonic Workshop.
Would you like to share with our readers your future plans?
I’m looking to get more involved in film/T.V. soundtracks. You won’t find me playing cover songs in a bar every Friday night for the rest of eternity! However, releasing albums will always be a passion of mine, for art’s sake. That’s why I still insist on releasing CDs, and hopefully vinyl in the near future- the overall presentation makes a statement. As far as I’m concerned, the licensing aspect can be used to “bankroll” the albums or even tours in the future.
Free question!!! (Ask yourself a question) you wish to answer and haven’t been given the opportunity…
Who produced this album, and who are the personnel?
I did everything. The composition, all of the instrumentation, the engineering, editing, and production. Even the album artwork.
Curated by: Christos Doukakis
Connect with Garrett N.:
Home page of Garrett N.: http://www.galaxian1.com