Interview with Steve Roach

A constant, deep connection to the soundcurrent:
an interview with Steve Roach

Date: September 20 2008

Steve live at Analogue Haven, Los Angeles, July 7th, 2007 (copyright Steve Roach)

Steve, you’ve been around in electronic music now for over 30 years. How do you look back on this period? What “phases” gave you gone through musically and personally? What do you still experience as special moments, highlights?
My impulse is to always look forward and more importantly merge into the present moment with the energy from my life up to the moment.
The phases you ask about are recorded on the cds and offer the answers to the questions you are asking. This sense of life is embedded in the work as a living document from these moments.
Over this time, 30 years looking back is surreal in the way that time seems so elastic feeling both short and like other lifetimes have passed.
At this point its a vast ocean of life, and the sounds, music and recordings and live concerts move in all directions within these years, it’s a rich pool to swim in and quite enjoyable in a deep, quiet kind of way right nowA couple of years ago you decided to move to a new place, a range. How come, in what way was it difficult, what’s the new Timeroom like? In what way does your wife Linda Kohanov support you in all your whereabouts?
My life as an artist in the true sense is centered around the challenge of exploring a life of true inner freedom, this sense of freedom is most felt in experimentation free from obligations or expectations. Creative challenges and risk taking is the road this occurs on. It can be a rough road at times, smooth and fluid at others.
Linda’s work with human-horse relationship continued to evolve at a high tide, her books, research and eventually the workshops where she teaches these methods reached a fever pitch. This work took off to a dimension more than we could ever imagine.
Eventually we just out grew every place in Tucson where she would do her work with the horses and people. Along side all that, I had my Timeroom as a steady retreat and constant creative habitat over the those years in Tucson. Eventuality the noise levels and population explosion in Tucson drove us out of the area.
After 9/11, the war planes training over head and all the noise of this military presence that was present around the outskirts of the city was coming in fast. This sound was like a ripping hole in the sky, nearly every day over what was once a vast and quiet sky. The change over Tucson (and the US cities with a military presence) was dramatic.
We have always provided a mutual unconditional support of each others needs to live this creative life, so it became clear it was time to pull up the tent stakes and find the next place to do our work.
It was huge challenge to pull up all roots after a fine 15 year run in Tucson, but well worth it in the end.
Now that we are here, over 3 years later, all is settled in and we are very thankful for quiet skies and deep nights, for the time being.
We are about an hour out of the city now, an easy drive from the airport. The new Timeroom is spacious and has nice warm feel, it also has a small side room I call the analogue cave. It’s really a culmination of all my studios up to this point and most likely not an end point.

The main entrance to the Epona Center, Apache Springs Ranch and Timeroom studio (copyright Steve Roach)



In 2007 you started doing the first “Master Class” and “Into the Soundcurrent” sessions. Is this something you dreamt of doing for a long time? What are these sessions all about, and how do you experience them yourself?
I presented my first soundcurrent workshop around 12 years ago at a holistic retreat centre in upstate New York. It was very powerful and satisfying for all involved and I was still hearing from people about it years later. It was a real moment in time. Since the beginning of Linda’s Equine workshops, I have presented a sound and music component in her workshops, over the past 8 years. The idea of presenting a Master Class program evolved over time, but it was not and is not a long term plan or a big burning desire to be honest.
The Epona Center has rooms and all the comforts for people to stay and experience a lot more than music and sound. The horses really bring a powerful presence that is felt throughout the environment. The opportunity to present these workshops was a natural experiment.
On a side note, in 2007 I presented a 12 hour over night concert in our space for 30 people. It started at 8 in the evening and went through till 8 the next morning. I performed the entire 12 hours, never left the gear rig the entire time, somehow the body functions went on hold and 12 hours later there we were.
But back to the workshops…
I have presented a few of these over the last year but its over now. My main focus is always the call of the soundcurrent and my constant deep connection to this place. After a few of these, I could quickly see the time and energy drain along with the growing administration of the details and emails with the participants before and after was not for me. It was becoming too much on many levels, and above all my priority of long extended times of solitude is the ongoing priority. I will continue to present my modules in Linda’s Workshops that focus on creativity, which is more exciting to me at this point to work with non musicians.
I also often do longer journey concerts for Linda’s groups, deep listening sessions and group music making. This is ongoing and great fun, very spontaneous and lets me experiment with new sounds and pieces. So the last word is the Soundcurrent and Master classes were short lived and now over.

Not so long ago, you regained an interest in vintage analogue instruments. How did that happen, how did it affect you musically and spiritually?
I have been using vintage analogue gear all along in some basic ways as I consider the Oberheims the core to my sound and I never let go of these. They have been a part of most every release since the early 80’s.
The analogue modular rebirth in my studio was a reconnection to the early tools I learned on – the Arp 2600. The current explosion of great quality affordable analogue modular gear was perfectly timed for my desire to put my hands back on this quality of pure sound at a modular level. When hearing and working with it now for the past four years, it has become another healthy obsession and has found a lasting place in my collection of favourite tools of the trade.
This fits well to my way of working and that is hands on with knobs and sliders connected directly to instruments. With that said I am not an avid or even casual soft synthesizer user. If you never knew the difference it would be a different story, but no matter how I try after 15 minute on a soft synthesizer, I find myself back to the real deals and my ears just crave this sound.
To my ears, nothing sounds and feels like the real thing when it comes to the pure sound of analogue and select hardware synthesizers. Since I live to create sounds, the sensual aspect of programming sounds on a real synthesizer and the instant feedback and feel to the fingertips is essential and a big part of the enjoyment of sound and music creation on dedicated instruments

live at Grace Cathedral, San Francisco, June 29, 2007 (copyright Steve Roach)

Since several years, there’s also an increase of concerts and albums that your put out privately and through the Projekt label. How come? Any chance you will come over to Europe again?
Time is running out, as I get older it’s clear the sand in the hourglass is constantly running. I have always had this feeling in my daily awareness but its more pronounced now, more than ever with some friends my age dying and the overall sense of the inevitable.
I’m not sure about concerts in Europe….quite possible with the right conditions, flying with the gear will be an issue these days, not like my travels to Europe all through the 90’s and early 2000’s where I could fly freely with lots of gear.
These days, with the crack down in security it seems whenever I fly with gear it arrives damaged from the inspections. In the States, I can ship the gear through UPS or Fed EX in advance and that helps.
I am looking to building a smaller system to travel to Europe and more distant US points with, one that still gives me lots of creative performance options. With that said, I am not interested in being a laptop jocky which I see a fair amount of these days. So if I can make it work, I would still love to come back over to the Europe. Also, it seems my base in the UK is growing as I am constantly sending orders over there.

To me it seemed you moved into a new world of music, which is very nicely expressed on the three-fold Immersion-series or recently on “Arc of Passion”
“Arc Of Passion” along with “Landmass” are high points for me, peak moments of pure flow. I feel the result of these two releases is really about reaching deeply into my process that has developed over the years and just trusting a more open spontaneous approach.
I set up a perfect rig with my favourite tools from over the years and allowed a more open plan, let it unfold with the map I roughly set out with.
“Landmass” was recorded live in the WXPN studios in Philadelphia on Chuck van Zyl’s Stars End radio show. Also, the move into my new life with all the changes as I describe above I turned the knob up on this sense of life.

“Landmass” is the surreal bookend to “Arc Of Passion” in that it was recorded at the beginning of the string of dates that built up to the “Arc” moment as the last date of these concerts. “Landmass” moves through a lot of spaces both harmonically dense and rhythmical powered.
I still love to hear this release, as it was recorded under such extreme physical demanding circumstances, just a few hours after a gathering concert, this second set occurred around 2 AM after moving all the gear to the radio station studio. I have a very distorted memory of this and the recording really puts me back into this surreal zone of pushing it to the limit and finding no limit at that moment when we went live on the air after all that had occurred over the past 12 hours.

Steve, isn’t it difficult composing your music in a music world that is dominated by lots of cd copying and illegal downloads?
I just trust my listeners will keep supporting the music’s creation…over all it seems to be healthy but the cd sales are a fraction to what it was in the days before the download era. I can’t really get stressed or spend too much time worrying about this but its vital for those who buy cds from my site to know that their support is essential to the continuing ability to keep going with the releases.
Thank you for this.

You’ve announced a couple of upcoming projects for 2008. What can you reveal about them?
The long form zone album “A Deeper Silence” was the first release this year. These kind of spaces are among my favourite to create. As minimal as it seems these kinds of pieces demand a very subtle and steady focussed attention to detail and the process of living in these pieces is very satisfying and on going, a way of life for me.
“Landmass” was just released, as was the double-cd edition of “Empetus” on Projekt. The latter has a second disk holding two pieces from the early years, this is pure sequencer-analogue pieces that a fan had masters of and sent to me last year. I had lost track of these and as soon as he sent them I was almost in tears as it took me to those moments and all the emotion and energy of the time.
The long, 45-minute piece is with Thomas Ronkin whom I knew in Los Angeles in the 80’s, and this piece is no better example of the intense feeling we had towards sequencer based music.

I have a new release with Byron Metcalf and Mark Seelig coming in October. The cd is called “Nada Terma”. It’s a single long meditative space with a strong East Indian-Sufi trance like quality.
And there is a new collaboration in the works with Erik Wøllo, which I am deeply excited about. We have tapped into some bold new worlds on this one, which will be called “Stream of Thought”.

I personally feel you have moved into a new world of music in the last five years or so. Is that something you recognize?
I do have this sense and what I shared in the early questions about the sand in the hourglass says a lot about this.

Steve & Erik Wøllo at work in the Timeroom, summer 2008 (copyright Steve Roach)

Finally, what musical and personal goals have you set for yourself for the years to come? Do you still like collaborate with anyone which didn’t happen until now?
As I mentioned, I am thrilled to say that Erik Wøllo and I have just completed a collaboration we have been working on quietly over the past year….I can’t wait to see this coming out in a few months.
Erik is one of the few artists I have consistently wanted to work with for years, his “Traces” release from the early 80’s is still on my top 10 desert island pieces.
After that I have a deep atmospheric project on the runway, and a lot more….
Many thanks for your interest and to all the listeners who continue to enjoy and support the music.


Sonic Immersion
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