An Interview with Steve Roach
The Center For Conscious Creativity's Kate McCallum had the chance to interview Steve about his perspectives on music and the fulldome experience.
Q: How did you get started in music?
My path to creating music primarily came from an awareness or awakening to the essence of sound thru immersing in long periods of solitary time in deserts, mountains and coastal areas growing up in San Diego.
From an early age there was a draw and power in these places that seemed to eclipse the normal trajectory of what I was born into, growing up in the SoCal baby boomer factory. This feeling I was tapping into something vast and eternal was accessed in a deeper kind of silence and sense of space you can find in the desert for example. This kind of boost into this inner place was filled with sound, before music. This is really the core of my work, sound emerges first, and what is called music in my work grows out of this quality of tone that is inside the sounds I create, the music emerges from this point.
Q: What led you to electronic music?
As this awareness of the power of sound began to evolve within me and become more visceral and all encompassing, the path to using the early synthesizers was a perfectly timed discovery. These instruments for me were like finding surgical instruments for investigating perception and awareness. With these tools and a directed intention you can instantly change the magnification and go way down inside of a sound, revealing emotions and and mental states not usually accessed in ordinary music, art and the day to day encounters of life or even with the right mind altering agents.
Eventually I added other instruments that hold this relationship of sound as a transformative tool. For example after 2 extended trips through Australia I discovered the didgeridoo in the mid 80s' before it had made its way into popular culture.
This instrument gave me the same feeling I received from deep churning analog synthesizer drones, combining the two created this bridge through time and place. Both are activating the same part of our consciousness. Eventually I added cello to this mix and that was yet another wonderful opening, even deeper. That kind of creative spiral is what I love to explore.
Right now in my work after 30 years the lines are gone of what is electronic or acoustic, ancient or modern. There are no rules or boundaries. I continue to be drawn to the instruments that give me the most direct response and feel in my fingertips, body, and soul. Above all there is a quality of sound I must hear as this is the medicine inside the music. This is what calls to me every day to create and hear what is just beyond my reach, it's an essential form of nourishment and breath.
My approach has always been to use hardware instruments in the studio and live. While the trends are all digital all the time, that's simply not my path.
I see my process more as a visual artist, sculptor or painter in that I work alone, for long periods of time in my studio. I will have several "pieces" in progress at the same time and move between these at will.
The shaping of my work is often through listening as the piece is alive in the studio. These pieces are playing live in the systems I work with, playing for days or weeks in a formative state. I live with the piece playing live at all times of the day and at different volume levels, into night and early AM and quite often sleeping with the pieces in loop. The fine tuning and subtle organic infusions I perform on the mixes and strata of the pieces all add to the ephemeral sense I am striving towards. For me complete immersion in the sound is a way of life.
Q: What are your opinions about your music's effect on the audience?
To hear this quality of sound and music, I create live -- at concert volume in a surround environment in a unique dome space -- the pathways to deep and primal places are opened. This is how it affects me and how the flow of the concert is shaped in this kind of setting. The way the set unfolds is always influenced by the space we are in along with each unique gathering of the audience and the collective desire to listen deeply.
It can be a place of discovery and rediscovery, remembering, connecting and reconnecting. In this space we are together as a witness of these moments unfolding, hearing a sound-world for the first time together. Something in ourselves craves this moment -- inside the present, revealing itself and unfolding to the next moment and so on.
My live experience is akin to a gathering of people sharing a collective dream. The set is presented as a continuous flow. In this way it's also a place we create together and this sense is something I feel at the conclusion of these events, a shift and kind of recalibration of hearing, listening and seeing. I think the fact we are hearing more music on iPods and smaller systems made for convenience makes the chance to hear the resolution and power of these kind of sounds pouring right out of the source a special and rare experience.
Having played in many different spaces around the world, the Dome is a compelling space for this dreaming into sound and vision. With the typical box corners gone, the space is a great container for holding the sound and providing an immersive cave-womblike environment for ultimate live sound and visual union.
Q: What do you feel happens when you combine visuals with your music? Especially the work of Audri Phillips, and what do you think of the 360 immersive experience?
With the right visual element you activate that primal connection to the original immersion states of firelight reflecting on the cave walls with the music of that time supporting, nourishing and enhancing the tribe's daily life and desire to reach beyond.
The full Dome immersion experience with sound and visuals maintains this ancestral connection at subconscious levels; that is a starting point, the launch pad you mighty say. In this setting the function of the 360 dome visual-sound Immersion instantly delivers you to an expanded place, a wider view and a sense of being closer to the mysteries of the deep sky and the vast inner world of imagination and a resonation with the core self.
Q: Where do you think we are headed in the visual music space? What do you see in the future?
I would love to see more cities having Domes installed and have the inclusion for this kind of visual-sound immersion we are presenting on a regular basis for all the reasons I talked about in the previous two questions.
Also having these spaces open as a longer engagement, as an environment to drop in with at any time for a recalibration space is something I have thought about for awhile. Essentially a sanctuary space of vision and sound for daily life.
Q: We are working on creating fulldome music and visual experiences that can have an effect on well-being. From stress relief to support for those suffering from PTSD and also experiences designed to enhance optimal creativity. What is your opinion of this type of work as an artist and musician?
It's essential that the shamanic power tools of now are used at the front side of these innovations, leading towards wholeness and renewal. As a vessel for this work the full-dome experience moves beyond entertainment and into the realm of Sacred Space, activating the mythic imagination.