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Z-Arc Interview; Refracted
Monday, September 01 2008 @ 01:00 AM PDT
Contributed by: ZG

Z-arc Interview

It is undoubtedly great to see that Rhythmic industrial scene evolves and previously unknown, but talented musicians get their CDs finally issued. Below presented is an interview with Kris Derry, the mastermind of Z-Arc, a one-man band coming from the United Kingdom, whose first album was recently released on UK label – Boltfish Recordings. Z-Arc combines various musical influences from synthpop to trance and idm electronica and passions of an artist, such as cosmology and sci-fi literature. You have a possibility to dip into musician’s childhood, know about sources of inspiration, main means of expression and methods of composing and opinions on art and music in general.

Heathen Harvest: How did it happen you became interested in music generally and in the kind of music you’re composing particularly? Did someone influence your choice in the very beginning and does something/someone influence your choice nowadays?

Kris Derry: Both my parents are music teachers so I didn't really stand a chance. I have early recollections of being subjected to the heavy masses of Mozart and complex counterpoints of J.S.Bach, with the odd Beatles album thrown in for good measure, but after developing a more variable taste in music at a more impressionable age I became fascinated by synth composers who appeared to be able to fill out the whole sound frequency spectrum with only one type of instrument. Just like having an orchestra at your fingertips. The early hardware analogue modules they used looked awesome, so many leads, plugs, buttons and switches that it was like being at the controls of a spaceship, something very appealing about that.

My influences can be traced back to this pioneering age of synth musicians, I then followed closely the development of particular music styles ranging from 80's synthpop and beatbox, 90's trance and d'n'b through to 00's idm electronica productions. The notion of sequential recording is still the same as it ever was but the level of sophistication for generating music has improved dramatically, especially over the past few years. I try not to wear my influences too high up on my arm, but it is great when people reviewing my work reference certain artists whom I have a deep respect for.

HH: As you said you were surrounded by classical music at the early age. Did it influence your impression about classical music? You know, when children are made to listen and love something, they usually start to hate it when they become older.

KD: There were probably a few years when I was younger where I'd had enough of classical works, but appreciation for music as a whole brought everything back. I didn't develop a rebellious nature where music was concerned, I tended towards openmindedness, everything was on the menu from Mendelssohn to Ozzy Osbourne.

HH: What makes you compose? Any sources of inspiration you’d like to mention?

KD: As soon as I discovered I had an ability to write a melody and harmonise I was up and running. Cosmology is something that inspires me tremendously, the impossibly large universe around us, the galaxies of stars performing fantastically slow and beautiful choreographies, the intricacies of nature on our world and the defining particle fields that whizz around inside everything. Quite some scope there. Actually it's pretty difficult to nail down inspirations, if we knew exactly where they come from everyone would be able to tap in and benefit at will.

HH: You said you were inspired by cosmology. Probably science fiction literature too?

KD: Scifi definitely plays a role there. The links between scifi and synthesizers go way back. Films like Forbidden Planet made constant use of the unearthly noise of theremin devices, one of the most primitive forms of synthesis. Scifi literature itself can invoke concepts far beyond the capabilities of filmmakers, perfect for inspiring deep sonic atmospheres or complexity of sound.

HH: Is it your first project?

KD: Z-Arc is the first project for which I've had solo releases for. My musical involvement prior to this was keyboarding in numerous bands, recording studios and DJ-ing.

As a DJ, what kind of music do you usually play? Did you study DJing or did you learn how to do it by yourself?

You have to be versatile, the types of music would depend upon the venue and the occasion. It may be an underground trance club or a pub for someone's party for instance, so the stack of records you bring along would differ tremendously. The main trick to being a successful DJ is knowing your record collection inside out, knowing which songs are of similar tempo and key so you can cross fade them into each other seamlessly. After learning the basic skills from a good DJ friend of mine I then started incorporating sequences from a Roland MC-303 'groovebox' through synchronised beat matching, almost like adding a third turntable.

What does the name of the project mean? How did it come to your mind?

KD: I hadn't thought about the project name until the artwork for the initial e.p. release was being discussed, so ultimately it was developed in bit of a hurry. It's a tenuous reference to 'z-plane synthesis' which is a rare type of physical modelling technique used for manipulating frequencies of synth oscillators..... plus it has an appropriately futuristic tone.

HH: How was the idea for this project generally and “Accumulative Effect” album born?

KD: The main drive for the project came from an ambition to become more involved with the current underground electronica scene. After having a small handful of e.p.'s released via certain netlabels specialising in electronic, ambient and industrial genres I thought it was about time to progress to a more full length body of work.

Could you give a hint to your future listeners – what is your new album about? And how would you characterize your music in general? You may even describe it in 3 words if you wish.

KD: Industrial space music.  Although, saying that, there's a veriety of styles, rhythms and tempos throughout the album thus making it tricky to pin down to one specific genre.

HH: Certainly it is great when each person can see something special when looking at a cover artwork. What was the main idea lying under the design?

KD: The lines are angular and striking, the sky is cloudless and the building looks purposeful. An air of serenity and order combined with the calm exterior of industry. As always with cover-art it's open to as many allegorical interpretations as you'd care to impress, but to be honest I was only involved with the approval process for the cover, the realisation was mostly in the hands of label.

Is the album occured to be exactly what you wanted it to be or are there things you would like to change/add?

KD: Nope, I'm very pleased with how it's presented, and there will be a few remixed album tracks available in the near future too.

HH: What are the tools you use for composing?Analogue or digital?Why do you give preference to this or that equipment?

KD: Definitely digital. There's a perpetual argument for and against, but personally I believe if you blindfolded someone and played them the same track once on cd and then on vinyl or tape it would be very difficult for them to tell you which is which. Plus analogue equipment drifts out of tune too frequently for my liking, and most of the old machines need regular servicing which is a pain. I use a variety of digital audio workstations and software studios with x number of plug-in effects and virtual instruments that can be manipulated to produce that analogue sound.

Why did you choose Boltfish Recordings to issue your first CD?

KD: They're an amazing label. I've not heard one poor recording that has been released by them. I had to work very hard on my sound to impress them.

HH: Many European labels that issue quite similar music link each other, communicate with each other – generally speaking they build a kind of net that surrounds and supports musicians within the scene. But there’s quite little known about Boltfish, which issues music that goes in the same direction with music issued on european idm/rhythmic industrial- oriented labels and is not that young. Could you, please, assume why has it happened so? In which way Boltfish is different? Is Boltfish a known label inside UK and its industrial community?

Boltfish Recordings is actually integrated very neatly within a UK and worldwide network of underground electronica netlabels. The majority of artists on their roster also have releases through other labels such as Rednetic Recordings, Octoberman Recordings and Unlabel. It is also twinned with our European and global counterparts like U-Cover and Laced Milk Industries respectively. It's a thriving scene filled with enthusiastic artists very much dedicated to their craft.

HH: Do you play live? What kind of a live show of yours you would consider successful?

KD: I've just started live work, have occasional slots and would like more at some stage. A good gig has to be when you're given a free drink sometime during the course of the evening... or, even better, when people react positively to your sound.

HH: Where would you like to travel for a live show and what kind of place/decoration/ background would you prefer?

KD: I'm keeping it fairly local to begin with, as you can imagine London has ample oportunities for performing live events, but I'm not ruling out travelling across the oceans just yet.   As for the type of environment? anywhere with a decent sound-system. I'm not in the business of creating or defining my own backdrops yet, but given the oportunity my fantasy décor would probably be mostly dark with some strategically coloured angular strip lighting, like something out of the movie Tron (though not as kitsch). Most venues are already coordinated quite well for the type of acts they deliver - live electronica artists usually twin with VJ's who supply appropriate synchronisied graphical projections that pulse and morph to the sound.

HH: Which electronic artist would you like to share the stage with?

KD: I'm sure most electronic musicians I know would jump at the chance of being the third Chemical Brother. Realistically though, I would be delighted to perform with anyone who has a sound that would mix well with mine creating something new and interesting.

HH: If you play live then what kind of people usually attend your live shows?

KD: As a solo artist I'm still relatively new to the live arena, but going by the type of audience I attract on web radio stations such as last.fm the majority of the crowd would appear to be people in their 20's and 30's who appreciate where my musical influences have taken root from.

There’re many heated discussions and debates around art and its purposes. Some people think that art should be free and independent and other people believe that art should serve certain purposes – as a tool to make a political statement, as an example. What is your opinion? What do you think about art and its purposes?

KD: Art, being the broad term that it is, encompasses many types of talented (or untalented) creations with an almost infintely long sliding scale of interpretations. Personally I disagree with the use of art as a vehical for political agenda, it gets a point across but one that could be better made and achieved with greater persuasion through more direct methods. My favourite type of art is that which produces wonderment, but I'm content for art to be positive or negative, to induce altered states of emotion by communicating unusual ideas and inspire people to be more creative.

HH: There’re certain communities that gather around music and share similar music tastes. Have you ever considered yourself a part of such community and do you consider yourself a part of this community now?

KD: I'm very well ensconced in a musical community that is genre specific, although slightly detached from the crowd as I'm one of the artists who play for them. Off stage though, I do my best to support my fellow musicians by attending their events as much as it is possible for me to do so.

Do you communicate with other musicians inside the scene? Can you say that you influence each other in a way?

KD: Constructive conversations with musicians on the scene is a must. Electronica is a very fast evolving genre so you need to keep pace with the latest audio techniques, studio accessories and weird noise making gadgets. The scene is brimming with artists who remix each other's tracks, so it would make sense that many overlapping influences occur due to this method of working, and that also helps maintain an overall identity for the genre.

HH: Quite a thorny question: some people believe, that internet is the future of music industry, that with time CDs will fade away and net labels will be the only ones to survive. Do you think it may be true? Which advantages and disadvantages would you mention if things go this way? How do you perceive an idea of downloading music?

KD: It would be a sad day if music on physical media vanished completely, but I suppose even now you can attend an event or a concert and wirelessly download the songs from the performer there and then. This new way of supplying music to the masses has made it more accessable and instantaneous so it has to be a good thing. The biggest problem the music industry currently faces is internet piracy,  it has to learn to adapt if it wants to survive that. I'm certain they're scratching their heads right now trying to figure out how to turn it to their advantage.

HH: It is clear that this or that genre of music dominates the scene each year. Some time ago synthpop was really popular, then it was dark electo’s turn, now the wave of rhythmic noise popularity seems to be reaching its peak. What would be your predictions for 2009-2010?

KD: Sorry to be vague on this but the types of styles that usually come out on top are predominantly the dynamic ones, i.e. styles that pack a punch or get people moving and grooving on the dance floors of clubs. Not that there isn't room for everything else. I suspect we can look forward to the exciting development of new genres from the cross breeding of existing ones.

Now, I would like to ask you a few questions which I usually ask in my interviews - “what if”:  If you were asked to compose a soundtrack for the movie, what kind of movie would that be?

KD: If the film Silent Running is remade at any point I'd love to be asked to score for that.

HH: If you had an opportunity to come back in the past, would you like to change something within your music career?

KD: I once turned down the oportunity to play guitar and keyboards for the band Zoe (of 'Sunshine in the Pouring Rain' fame) on a Belgium tour. I sincerely believed my guitar skills weren't up to the challenge at that point. Maybe I'd choose differently if time travel was an option. But then again...

HH: Would you play for 20 people if they were those who really enjoy your music?

KD: Absolutely. Intimate crowds are cool, you could manage to chat to all of them during the course of the evening.

HH: I guess the readers are quite interested to know more about you as a person with human interests and weaknesses.(However, if you prefer the music to stay inhuman and not getting a human face, then I’ll understand) So, a few “personal” questions:  Would you call yourself rational or rather irrational person?

KD: Very rational but not obsessively so.

HH: Could you, please, describe a place you live in?

KD: Studio flat, lovely big park with trees at the end of the road,  45 minutes tube from London's West End.

HH: How do your parents and friends perceive your excitement of music creation?

KD: They're all very supportive. They're the ones I especially go out of my way to impress.

HH: What are the things (musical instruments?) you cannot imagine your life without?

KD: Synths/keyboards, but if there's some sort of power cut I'd opt for a set of drums.

HH: And when it comes to the music, what are your favourite bands or music genres?Which 3-5 bands would you name as the ones who made the biggest impact in music evolution of 20th century?Can you elaborate a bit on that?

Apart from the synth related I enjoy well crafted pop, rock and indie (The Teardrop Explodes, The Tubes, The The),  acid jazz/fusion (Weather Report, Acoustic Alchemy), plus many too many to mention really.  As for the breakthrough bands, The Beatles for paving the way for originality, Black Sabbath for kick starting heavy metal, and The Prodigy for mainstreaming rave.

HH: I’ve got the last question: are there the questions the musician shouldn’t be asked? If yes, could you name at least 3 of them?

Nope, fire away.


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