Q. He She Them Us is obviously a very personal album. Can you tell us a little bit about what inspired the music and your process during writing it?
Well, it is a very personal album indeed. One day my belief in ultimate happiness shattered, putting me in a state of melancholy and emptiness for a long while. I was desperately looking for peace of mind, and it seemed to make me feel better when I was able to find something quietly beautiful in the sounds I created. I think it was a form of creative meditation.
"I love field recordings and the stories they can tell about different places and people"
Places, their scenery and sounds inspired me very much. Each time I went to visit a secluded corner of nature outside my hometown, I usually felt a strong desire to produce music, especially when hearing the sounds again in my home studio.
Q. The album contains many field recordings, from samples of the outdoors to the mechanical sounds of machines. Many times producers include field recordings to add a general layer of depth, noise or space to a piece, but in your case each sample seems very deliberately placed. Tell us about your use of field recordings and where they come from.
I love field recordings and the stories they can tell about different places and people. They also have the powerful ability to transport the listener to another time or place. The track “Treijas” is inspired by a beautiful, remote place of the same name here in Latvia. In it I use samples that were recorded there, for example the chirping of grasshoppers, squeaking of gates and echoes of cars passing by. These field recordings are truly an essential part of the whole soundtrack and have a special meaning to me.
"I like to pay special attention to quiet sounds and details, the space between notes and unusual harmonies"
On “Epilogue”, there's a recording of an old man who lives in the Latvian countryside. He talks about his unwillingness to move elsewhere and his desire to see out his final days in his home of many years. Something about the timbre of his voice and his emotive words moved me to produce this piece.
Q. Do you strive for perfection in music? What does perfection mean to you, if such a thing exists?
I believe perfection only exists as a theory; nevertheless, we should all try to do our best, whatever we do. This would make the world a better place.
With music, I like to pay special attention to quiet sounds and details, the space between notes and unusual harmonies. Perhaps I would consider a piece perfect if it completely captured the feeling and nuance associated with a time or place; this is what I strive for.
Q. What motivates you to keep working on a piece and when do you know it's done?
One thing that motivates me to keep working on a track is the original melody or a beat I created. I usually stick to it and then gradually blend it with other sounds until I find the new mix to be more enjoyable with the added layers. I’ve also learned to enjoy a less entertaining process of building arrangements and programming sequences when I feel a track needs completion. A track is done when I feel it sounds like a finished story I want to tell; where each sound has its own place and there is nothing to add or change. It is worth noting that some of the tracks on the album took me over ten years to finish, I like to know if my music can stand the test of time.
Q. You have used old pieces of software like trackers on this album. For those who don't know, can you tell us about them and why you like to keep them around? Are there other esoteric tools you couldn't be without?
My interest in trackers started with “MOD love”. In the mid 90s, the MOD audio format was popular due to its ability to contain notes, patterns and embedded audio samples that could be played back with the appropriate tracker software. Trackers were used to produce MOD files as well. This, in turn, inspired many people to start writing their own computer music.
"It's the ability to quickly connect different machines in a chain and see what happens instantly that appeals"
In 1997 I discovered a public domain modular tracker for PC called Jeskola Buzz (http://www.jeskola.net/buzz/). It allowed for an easy workflow, as well as creating my own sounds with the help of “Buzz machines” (plugins for Buzz) developed by enthusiasts around the world. Most Buzz machines use configurable parameters, some are esoteric enough in some ways, but many can be used to produce amazing and unique sounds!
Buzz has definitely inspired me to spend many sleepless nights in front of a computer screen.
Q. Modular synthesisers are entering a kind of golden age right now, what keeps you from entering the hardware realm? What is it about the modular workflow of a tool like Buzz that appeals to you?
The possession of a Moog Modular 55 does not guarantee great music, not to mention the learning curve and high costs usually associated with quality analog hardware.
Of course, analog devices are capable of producing very pleasing sounds, rich in harmonics and that can be very inspiring. However, that doesn’t mean that a 16-bit software tracker, even with its poor quantisation algorithm, can’t help to create unique sounds, melodies and be equally inspiring. Sometimes, less is more.
When it comes to Buzz’s modular workflow, it’s about the ability to quickly connect different machines in a chain and see what happens instantly that appeals – this allows for faster production and motivates further experimentation. In addition, there’s a myriad of unique sounding Buzz machines (sound generators and effects), some of which are comparable with analogue devices.
Q. What other sound artists / musicians would you name as long- term inspiration?
In no particular order, Erik Satie, Arvo Pärt, Ryuichi Sakamoto, Jon Hassel, The Necks, Tape, Biosphere, Off The Sky, Rothko and Henning Schmiedt, I could go on...
Q. What other projects and creative pursuits are you involved with?
It makes me really happy to collaborate with creative people. Last year I worked with a young composer and sound designer named Linda Leimane on a composition called “Cadavre Exquis”. This was an audio- visual installation presented at the popular “White Night” festival in Riga. Over several years I was also involved in public performances with a group of Latvian-Russian poets called “Orbita”. The show (“Slow Show FM”) mixed my piano music with their poetry, all emanating from radio devices placed around the stage. There is also work in progress on another album, a collaboration with different musicians where field recordings are the main sound source; it’s an attempt to bring ambient sounds to the fore.
"The grain is like occasional dust on a vinyl record – it’s that perfect imperfection!"
Aside from music, I also enjoy taking photographs as a hobby. Around five years ago I bought a used Nikon FG camera because I wanted to try film photography. I love the colours, textures and depth of view. I also love not being able to see the photograph when I take it. Digital images feel too perfect — I prefer a little imperfection. The grain is like occasional dust on a vinyl record – it’s that perfect imperfection!
He She Them Us will be out April 21st on Serein