Richard Lisaj is the man behind the sublime space ambient project Intersonic Subfomation that marked Last Day Deaf’s Lost Entity’s very first release merely a few days ago. Fasten your seat-belts and enjoy this beautiful chat/interview Richard and me had, that hopefully you’ll find more than introductory to Intersonic Subformation, Lost Entity and above all space ambient. Beam me up, Scotty!
Let’s begin, Richard, by introducing the Intersonic Subformation project to Last Day Deaf readers…
Intersonic Subformation is something that was born out of my decades-long adventure with electronic music. As a listener, back in my teenage years, I was a big fan of Tangerine Dream, Klaus Shulze, and the whole Berlin school of electronic rock. I also couldn’t get enough of the darker sound that was coming out in the 80’s and 90’s on labels like 4AD. Records by Dead Can Dance, This Mortal Coil, Bauhaus and Cocteau Twins were a huge inspiration for me in those formative years. Later on, once I started to play around with synthesizers, sequencers and samplers, music of these artists helped me crystallize many of my own creative ideas.
My original project was something that is still the main focus and creative output for me today. I’ve been producing under Dubtrak moniker since 2008 and over the years I’ve collected many ideas that were shelved because I didn’t feel like they can be released on a Dubtrak album. Dubtrak music is very much beat and bass driven, with psytrance and ethno-chill motifs intertwine in most of the arrangements. At some point I felt like I need to have another output and channel my creativity in more than one direction. That’s how the idea for Intersonic Subformation came about. The first EP, ‘Post Apocalyptic Flower Shop‘ was basically a release containing 4 tracks that were Dubtrak’s unused ideas. As on most Dubtrak’s tunes, guitar was the backbone of tracks’ arrangement, but instead of trance’y melodic licks I used guitar in a different way: it served as a source of multi-layered textures. Something that created a very distinct mood, even if the guitar sound wasn’t right in the centre of the mix. I think that influences of Cocteau Twins’ guitarist Robin Guthrie are quite prominent on this release.
The following full-length album ‘Into The Void‘ was, I think, a step in a direction of discovering Intersonic Subformation’s own identity and unique style. There are no more guitars on this album (with one track’s exception). I relied a lot more on synthesizers and designed many sounds of my own for this album. I believe this release was unmistakably a cross between soundscape ambient and space electronica.
Working on ‘Guardians Of The Transmitter‘, 2nd full-length album released last year on Aural Films label, helped me refine the mood I was after. With even more original sound design, sample manipulation and use of field recordings I finally created my own “toolbox”, a unique palette of colors with which I wanted to paint and form my musical expression. I knew that the worlds I envisioned were now emotionally potent enough and worthy of sharing with a demanding and sophisticated listener.
What made you choose Lost Entity label for the release of ‘Space Project at Earth’s end’?
Well, it’s always exciting to be part of something new. I think “space ambient” is the sub-genre on fringes which Intersonic Subformation found its place. And I think you and I, we clicked right away. We share similar interests in music, we listen to very broad range of genres but as artists we both gravitate to experimental sounds and darker moods.
Why should people ‘invest’ time (and money) in buying this release?
I’m not a very good salesman or marketing expert and it’s hard for me to “pitch” my music, try to convince people to listen. Music of certain quality usually stands on its own and finds its way to the right audience. I know that when I listen to something completely new and it somehow captivates me and draws me in, I just don’t hit that “stop” button if I connect with what I’m hearing in some way. That’s all I’m hoping for – that the music connects with a listener and gives them something emotionally rewarding.
Which is your favorite track of the release, if you had to choose one, and why?
I really believe that all 5 tracks work very much together as 5-piece entity (“lost entity”? pun intended ;-).
If I was really pressed and had to pick one, I think that the track #3 would be my choice. ‘Dark matter‘ is to me the track that anchors the whole album in a special way. While opening ‘Senses vs Machine‘ and ‘Space awaits‘ set the mood and slowly draw you into this mysterious place, ‘Dark matter‘ really brings about the uneasy feeling of unimaginable expense of the Universe, with its darkness and loneliness.
Do you believe that instrumental music, like the I.S. one, fails to contain a significant message for the hard times we are going through? Do you believe that listeners are more free to decide on this (message)?
I don’t think that times we are going through are necessarily harder than the times our parents or grandparents went through. Music always helped us through tough times and hardship in endless ways. Whether we sang a song or played a melody, the emotional connection to the music remained the same. Even though technology has profoundly changed the way we produce and consume music, I don’t think that this affects why we create and enjoy it. Throughout the human history singers and musicians co-existed and collaborated. When peasants took break from hard work in the fields, some enjoyed singing, other enjoyed playing a flute. Some people enjoyed listening to a choir in their church, others got goosebumps when they heard the pipe organs. And this remains unchanged even today. As an artist you create music that allows you to express yourself in a best possible way. If you consider bands that have had hugely successful careers and many chart-topping songs , take for example Nine Inch Nails or Massive Attack, even these guys had a creative urge to produce entirely instrumental albums and score movie soundtracks. They definitely didn’t lose any audience because of that. You may argue that it help them to gain even bigger respect among the fans.
Which 3 artists have mostly influenced you for I.S. project?
In no specific order I would say: Steve Roach, Biosphere and Boards Of Canada.
Are you a fan of sci-fi movies? Top-5 ones?
Oh yes! Especially the dark ones. Top 5 would be as following:
- “12 Monkeys“
What kind of equipment are you using for recording?
Right now my sequencer of choice is Ableton Live but many tracks for the first 3 albums were produced in Sonar and Fruity Loops. I use iPad apps a lot. There is a unique and non-linear way of recording and manipulating sound on many apps available today and that presents some new and exciting possibilities. At early stages of production I love the tangible feel of touch controls available through iPad. I may throw all these bits I create on iPad into Live’s session and start tweaking them through my BCR2000 midi controller (believe me, 32 knobs go a long way!). I use Fostex MR-8 multi-track recorder for my field recording but, as may happen on many occasions, if I don’t have it with me and sound recording opportunities present themselves, I will just capture them on my phone. I don’t have tons of analog equipment so a lot of the sounds for my manipulation and tweaking may come from my guitar and two Electro-Harmonix fx (Superego synth engine and Memory Man delay). I also use AKAI Miniak Virtual Analog Synth. It’s not widely known or popular because its built-in interface is very limited but when used with iPad or BCR2000 midi controller it’s surprisingly good as a quick sound design tool.
What does ambient, and specifically, space ambient mean to you?
Ambient, as genre of music, didn’t exist before Brian Eno. In a way, it’s interesting how a lot of what’s labelled as ambient today still remains true to Eno’s early work but then, at the same time, there is enormous amount of music out there that is (mis)classified as “ambient”. In fact, it’s just a mellower or instrumental version of downtempo, lounge or chillout music. To me, ambient is not “purpose-driven” music like new age, lounge or chillout, which is all geared towards specific “relaxing” vibe. Maybe that’s why people mistakenly call it “ambient”, because they think of the “ambience” it creates. However ambient music goes way beyond ambience. It can project a wide spectrum of moods and emotions. It explores human psyche, from soothing and healing use of sound therapy, to mind altering visions and exploration of some fantastic, mystical and dark places in our minds. Space ambient, I think, is the attempt to musically look towards the stars. The biggest complement one could tell me about my space music would be to say it creates perfect soundtrack for viewing these images we now are getting from NASA deep space telescopes. Although some of my tracks could be equally suitable for astronauts fixing badly damaged computers on board of their spacecrafts (LOL).
What comes first in mind when listening to these words: space, Tangerine Dream, netlabels…
“New frontier” (I know, it’s such cliche but right now, with private ventures interested in the exploration of space, it’s no longer a politically driven pursuit. It’s truly an exciting frontier for exploration, innovation and discovery)
“Pioneers”. Music, in so many different genres, wouldn’t exist as it does today if there was no Tangerine Dream.
“Out with the old, in with the new”. Netlabels, just like Wikipedia, open-source software, and crowed funding are the result of what Internet made possible and we, both as creators and as consumers, should protect from commercial and big industry meddling.
What holds the future for I.S. project?
Well, the future looks busy for Intersonic Subformation because I already have material for at least 4 more albums. Some of the tracks are very much in the final stages of production so I wouldn’t be surprised if, aside from the 2nd part of this release on Lost Entity, there is yet another IS album out in 2017.