In the early 2000s, I didn’t have a lot to complain about with respect to music. Different Skies was going gangbusters, I had finally managed to get a couple of group albums of back catalog out the door in one form or another, and I was rediscovering the joys of live playing after a long hiatus (as I’ll discuss later). But there was one piece missing: a catalog of solo releases. I was supposed to be an electronic music recording artist! Where were my recordings? One EP from over a decade earlier didn’t cut it.
In 2002, energized by several years of contemplation after the conclusion of the Team Metlay decade and by a burgeoning electronic music house concert scene in Denver, I elected to join New Zealand synthesist Rudy Adrian for a house concert where I’d be opening for him. Having only performed a few small solo gigs in the early 1980s, this represented a return to my working methods from my analog era, but with the added pressure of a live audience watching my every move.
In the space of only a few weeks, I assembled and tested an unusual but effective live rig from parts of my dusty studio rig; it allowed me to crossfade between my usual performance ‘metric’ of live playing supplemented by rhythms and simple sequencer loops, and evolving sound textures I called ‘arx’, which gave me breathing space to reset my rig for the next part of my set. Remember: no computers, no MIDI sequencing, no overdubbing, no prerecorded material!
The set was a success, and I released my music on a limited-edition CD called after silence. With the live bug having thoroughly bitten me and the Different Skies concert series off and running, I began to create new works for solo and group performance, a process which has evolved and grown in the intervening years.
Different Skies led to a number of live releases: Arcs & Angles from 2004 (there’s also a magnificent DVD of the concert with accompanying visuals, now rare), two albums on Earth Mantra from 2007 and two more from 2008, and an absolutely amazing set from 2010 that remains to be released (as well as material from 2009 that’s in a vault somewhere awaiting some loving care).
My friendships made through Different Skies and perpetuated through Earth Mantra and StillStream led to groups and releases of which I remain very proud. In addition to the five released mindSpiral albums, there is wonderVu, my ongoing collaboration with Darwin Grosse, and Labrathisattva, my duet with Darrell Burgan that produced the amazing record The View From Down Here. Labrathisattva has been renamed Zen Rat, and the earthMANTRA netlabel will soon be releasing an extended version of the first album, now entitled A World Beneath the World, and the second Zen Rat album, To The Heights.
And as a solo artist, I ranged from recapitulations of my standard live performance methods (metric) to extreme drift ambient (eocene) to mind-shattering noise (shriek.void). I still drew most of my inspiration from working with others, but these captured moments of live solo work are reminders (to me, at least) that sometimes, when the stars align, I can produce beauty all on my own.