Secrets of Giza Artist- Abre Ojos Interview
1. Scott please tell us how this project came about?
My background is in visual arts – installation, sculpture, textiles – and the exploration of sound came about from the necessity to have sound within my installations. For a while the visual side of things dropped back as I made up for lost time with the process of understanding sound and recording and performing music with a variety of electronic equipment. After watching too many performers stuck behind laptops compared to the stage dynamics of the plethora of metal gigs I had watched, there was no visual element to engage the audience in what I was doing live and even to a certain extent in the recorded output. Drawing on my visual background, I started Abre Ojos specifically as an audio-visual project. We are now classed as a visual society, our visual language is highly developed and it starts from a young age. Traditional cultures that have a strong storytelling tradition tend to be much more aural. This visual sensitivity is something that I am targeting. One of the intentions of the project was to wedge into the TV time of my audience, for them to forsake an ad break, or a Simpsons episode and instead watch a meditative evolving mandala, to cleanse their palette from the constant stream of visual excrement that we are exposed to.
2. I hear elements of many Australian experimental artists in Abre Ojos . Halo, Trial of the bow and Shinjuku thief to begin with also many of the older CMI, Malignant, Dark Vinyl and Cold Spring artists. Was this were the sounds were influenced from?
Shinjuku Thief was a big influence and I was listening to him before I even knew he was Australian. I missed Halo when it was an active entity but through my love of music technology and synthesis and the local modular group, I met one half of Halo who lives local to me and still creates amazing music under Terminal Sound System (http://www.
terminalsoundsystem.com) and Siilt (http://siilt.bandcamp.com). Skye’s approach to sound production and programming has always pushed me along right when I needed it. I am very honored to know such a true artist! The biggest influence that pushed me down this path was the opportunity to work for a short time with Alan Lamb and listening to his compositions of the wires. My early music was very derivative of his work. Listening to his music and the discussions we had led me to understand the 3 min pop song was well and truly dead, that rhythm can be found outside of percussion and that audio frequencies are a playground.
3. I would call the style sinister dark electro noise with ambient and drift overtones. If you were asked how would you explain it?
You have done a good job in explaining it. My explanation of it can only come from explaining the technology I use and the aesthetic and personal intention I put into it as I make it.
The sound comes primarily from synthesisers – a small eurorack modular, a Mono Evolver Keyboard and up until recently an Elektron Analog Four. I also use Absynth and Alchemy software. For me the whole digital vs analogue debate is moot. Synthesis is a meditative ritual for me, that engagement of physical interaction with aural focus, listening to the impact that minute changes of a pot or slider have, quieting the conscious mind, allowing other infinite connections to take place in guidance for construction and composition.
My personal aesthetic of the frequency range is in the lower ranges, these lower frequencies have been associated with being dark, maybe something in our primal brain makes it so – connections to the low rumble of an avalanche, a cave in, an earthquake or some other catastrophic geological event. There is no doubt that the world beyond the plastic we are fed from the mainstream media is a dark place, when I found the Spanish term “Abre Ojos” it was a common saying of sailors saying “look out, open your eyes, there is danger all around!”.
4. I know there is a dvd with gates as a companion but I only got the audio tracks to review tell us what the dvd is all about?
As stated previously, Abre Ojos is primarily an audio-visual project, so there are always visuals being created in parallel with the sound – both elements are treated equally and composed simultaneously and I am very lucky to have found a label in Secrets of Giza that supports this and were happy to go the extra mile to release a DVD and CD package.
The DVD visuals are built from 3 films found on archive.org that are in the public domain. It is very important for me to use raw materials that are in the public domain or licensed under creative commons. They all have some kind of extra-terrestrial theme, which for me is not necessarily about an external higher intelligence but as a metaphor for our own universally connected selves. This is a part of the core principle I was exploring with Gates, so these films were appropriate to use. I have a fascination with the geometry in our world – in nature, in mankind’s constructions and with the mandalas of eastern philosophies and religions. The films were cut up and molded into long evolving mandalas and layered with audio reactive geometric animations. The result is a 60+min audio-visual experience that are designed to be watched and simultaneously not watched, with the opportunity opened to listen to the sound on a deeper level and to potentially move through the image into a deeper part of yourself.
5. Is there a story or tale behind the album gates?
Gates was conceived through 2012 culminating in the solar eclipse. The prophesies of doom for me were nothing but a clear statement that the dogmas, religions and laws of societal control were expired, out of date. Priests, shamans or figures of control no longer guarded the gates to individual enlightenment. The time had come for self-individuation (in the Jungian sense) and self-directed guidance. The track list of Gates is a manifesto in it’s own right with each track an exploration of that step in the process of discarding the expired dogmas of control. The final track – Take Your Place – is that point of claiming your own sovereignty of all aspects of your life and spiritual beliefs. Gates was my own training exercise to explore and reaffirm this knowledge.
6 Scott I know you make music outside Abre Ojos how does it differ?
You can’t escape yourself! The other music that I make out side of Abre Ojos is in collaborations. Every collaboration is something that I’m privileged to be a part of in connecting and creating with others. The music is still me but with the opportunity to respond and react to others creative processes. It differs only that I hope it becomes something unique and new through the collaboration process. When collaborating I do try and explore different instruments or creative techniques. I guess a subtext of the question is “am I worried about staying true to a particular genre?” and that answer is firmly no. The past centuries of creative pursuits have brought us to a point where any and every creative act is valid and meaningful and this represented with the amazing range and diversity of music available on somewhere like Bandcamp or Soundcloud. So to disregard genres and free myself to create whatever comes out at whatever point ensure that I am true to whatever point psychologically, spiritually or physically I am at and that I can create something true with integrity for myself.
6. Secrets of Giza has released this album they are new to my readers and myself how did you come to work with them?
The relationship with Secrets of Giza came about through a friend and fellow musician Matt Casey/Illuminoscillate (http://illuminoscillate.
bandcamp.com), another amazing local dark ambient artist who had been in discussion and had contacted SOG and who had mentioned me. Secrets of Giza and I started chatting and I sent them the Gates demo and they instantly wanted to release it. The label owners are musicians themselves, this is reflected in the attention to detail and care they have shown in all of our dealings. They have a strong work ethic and a unique vision for their label and artists and I’m honored to be a part of their roster!
7. Your music has a very eastern and ritualistic feel to it was that done to need or did it just come about organically?
The irrelevance of established and historical ritual practices means that we are free to create our own forms of rituals and my creation process is very much that for me. Each track has a clear personal intention and I approach the making of them in a ritualistic way. The eastern influence may come from the metallic percussion instruments that I sample and also play live on the tracks such as my collection of meditation bowls and Tibetan chimes and cymbals. It even creeps in with the tunings I use when programming the synthesizers.
8. Are you a fan of social media or does it hurt the real artist trying to grow and expand the musical journey?
Social media is a great way of connecting directly with people who like my music. It is a struggle to get new audiences from places like Facebook and Twitter that are just 21st century versions of bill flyers pasted onto lampposts. I feel that networking (collaborations, gigs, etc) is still the number one way to make the initial connection with potential listeners/watchers and that the social media triumvirate of demons are just the way to continue and develop those connections.
9. Where do you see the sound of Abre Ojos heading with future releases?
I am always reminded about how much I don’t know about sound production when I hear the current work coming out around the world, so the Abre Ojos sound is always striving to develop compositionally, technically and in sound creation. There are three new releases on the horizon: one built completely from sounds recorded from the wind organ I built with Alan Lamb which is very much embedded in the dark ambient style. That is due soon on an Australian label Iceage Productions (http://iceageproductions.
bandcamp.com). The other two are logical progressions from Gates with percussive elements and darker, denser tracks.
10. If you could let us know what are you currently listening to and reading these days. Tell much about the artist.
Haxan Cloak is on constant rotation and I have been playing his collaboration with The Body a lot. The Mika Vainio and Joachim Nordwall collab – Monstrance is an excellent record. You can really hear the live jamming from two excellent improvisers. Pharmakon – Abandon, her talent for minimal composition which results in such a huge sound always blows me away and the videos I have seen of her live shows makes me wish she would come to Aus to tour sometime. The two current reads are a new collection of Stephen King short stories and the Alan Moore graphic novel Lost Girls.
11. If you could collab and tour with anyone or project who would it be and why?
Too many collaboration wishes to list here but here are the top three: Henrik Nordvargr Björkk – his no nonsense approach, choice of audio technology and his talent would be great to connect with, he leaps genres effortlessly. Bobby Krlic/Haxan Cloak – amazing sequencing and sound design skills and finally, Margaret Chardiet/Pharmakon for all the reasons listed above.
12. Thank you for the time any closing thoughts here.
Thank you for the interview and great questions. As mentioned above the industry is a quagmire and saturated with amazing music so I am always humbled when I find out someone is listening to my music or wants to hear my thoughts on the creation process. The need to be creative is very strong and I feel that I would be doing this even if there wasn’t any audience, so I am very appreciative of every ear, eye and heart that does take the time to listen and watch.
There are still a few copies of Gates left available from http://secretsofgiza.bandcamp.
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