Interview With Electronic Musician, Stellardrone.

"I was never religious or spiritual, though production of ambient and space music always made me feel amazing and yes, it constantly gave me cathartic experiences; feelings of joy, sadness, relaxation, and peace of mind. If there is anything that can bring a person like me closer to religion, it is music."- Stellardrone.

Edgaras Žakevičius (or perhaps better known by his moniker Stellardrone) has been producing ambient, science-fiction inspired tracks since 2009. Influenced by the works of pioneers like Brian Eno and Klaus Schulze, as well other legends such as Pete Namlook and Jonn Serrie, Edgaras has been effortlessly paying homage to the original synthesizer based ambient movement of the late 70's and 80's.

In spite of the fact that Edgaras has been producing virtuoso level ambient music since the inception of his Stellardrone project, he has opted to release all of his music for free, with the intention of reaching the masses and fostering artistic community and solidarity amongst listeners and creators.

The Lithuanian native continues to dazzle and has fans eagerly awaiting the release of his seventh album.

Prox: Tell us a bit more about yourself. How did you discover this type of music and what convinced you to get into producing it?

SD: It's kind of hard to remember now but I know for sure that I took my first steps in this software/game called Techno (or Dance) Ejay which I found on my cousin's computer, probably when I was around 13-15 years old. Time passed and I completely forgot about it until I bought my first PC a few years later. The first software I bought and installed was Hip-Hop Ejay because I remembered how fun it was to drag and drop musical pieces and create short loops, but I got bored with it very quickly. I realized that there was very little room for creativity and composition, so I looked for a specific kind of software which would let me actually make my own sounds and I discovered Propellerheads Reason 3.0

A friend of mine from internet chatrooms showed me the ropes on how to use it, so I started learning sound synthesis from scratch through trial and error and since then I just created almost all sounds by myself because the actual process was very interesting and fun. Furthermore, it made me feel like a real programmer and a composer at the same time.

While I was making my first tracks (which were all electronic but not very ambient if you know what I mean) I looked for inspiration from other people and somehow discovered many old school ambient/electronic musicians (huge thanks to software called Soulseek and it's users for sharing such music). I realized that this is the kind of music that I want to create forever, just in my own way. I preferred sequenced melodies, simple bass lines and lush but synthetic pads instead of organic sounds. I thought and still think to this day that electronic music should be simple, symmetrical, and easy to understand. It should not require active listening.

Prox: Who were some of your greatest influences growing up? Were you inspired by any non-musicians?

SD: Believe it or not one of most important influences (that I rarely mention to anyone) was a band called Linkin Park. I just loved their music (first 2 albums to be precise) and how they managed to incorporate electronic sounds and elements into simple rock music. 

Later, when I had just started learning to produce my own music, I found out about those old school ambient, space musicians that I mentioned before. Most notably, in no particular order, were Tangerine Dream with Klaus Schulze, Brian Eno, Pete Namlook, Patrick O'Hearn, Michael Stearns, Jonn Serrie, etc. Many lesser known musicians too which I discovered through Soulseek. Of course, till this day, I try to mention Aaron Marshall and his first album Noir Ambiance which had a big influence on my music and keeps inspiring me to this day. It is in my top five list of greatest ambient albums. 

Prox: Your work has an extremely dreamy, almost spiritual atmosphere. Is production a cathartic experience for you? Does any brand of spirituality play a role in your compositions?

SD: I was never religious or spiritual, though production of ambient and space music always made me feel amazing and yes, it constantly gave me cathartic experiences, feelings of joy, sadness, relaxation, and peace of mind. If there is anything that can bring a person like me closer to religion, it is music. Though I prefer looking at the world with a sense of awe, wonder, and realism, I do not make a distinction between my rational self and spiritual self, as it is all one and the same thing to me. Nature, night sky, stars, these things all play a major part in my experiences and because of that, I like to listen to music outdoors a lot more than in my room. It makes me feel as if I am floating through space and not walking on the ground. 

Prox: Have you ever considered dabbling in nature based ambient projects (or any other genres)?

SD: If you mean creating organic ambient, field recordings and such, then yes. I considered that and was planning on buying an expensive recorder to capture nature sounds a few years ago. I still prefer fiddling with knobs and sliders and modulating my own, synthetic sounds and when I really need some nature recordings, I can find them on the internet. I doubt I could use them anywhere else than just as a background texture, though I must admit, field recordings always give this richness, a certain fullness to a track.

For now, I'm trying to migrate a bit more towards rhythmic ambient, maybe something closer to psy-chill (psy-bient) and such. 

Prox: In an era where music is so competitive, why did you opt to release all of your albums for free?

SD: I chose to release music for free because I believed I could reach much wider audiences this way, especially since not everyone wants to pay some arbitrary and predetermined price. And it is really hard to put a price tag on my own music, since I do not consider it my job, but a hobby. Something I do on my free time and only when I am inspired to do it. I could never create music on demand, mainly because I lack the proper knowledge, education, and skills but also because I just want to create music my own way, not someone else's.

I also never believed in labels, to me they seemed more like an obstacle than a useful thing. When I started creating music I promoted it myself on various websites and forums, some of which are no longer active. And it would be hard to do that if people had to pay for music in order to download and listen to it on their spare time. It is not a business for me and never was, I allow people to pay the price that they want or not pay at all. This way, I think, I reach many more people because sharing is way easier when artists encourage it themselves instead of asking for money so that others could be able to give my music to their friends, family etc.

Prox: What are some of the greatest challenges associated with making “engaging” ambient music? Are there any steps that you take to ensure that your projects are never boring?

SD: When I create I never think about it, because as I said, I do it for myself and only for myself. I want to be personally engaged and inspired and actually feel like I made something complete and enjoyable. Though the challenge has always been finding the proper amount of inspiration. Sometimes, I am inspired to just mess around with different ideas, sounds, and genres. But to actually create something, I need this one special kind of inspiration which allows me to start and finish about 80 percent of a track in just one night, when I do not need anything else but some quietness, my headphones, and maybe a midi keyboard (even though I still prefer drawing notes with a mouse). 

Of course, to ensure all that I need to listen to music as much as possible which currently is hard to do. Also everyday stress and other personal issues make it hard to concentrate. I think I should try meditating to help me achieve this peace of mind.

Prox: Is there a particular way that you like your work to evolve sonically from project to project? Do you intentionally try to add new sounds and layers or do you just allow things to take shape naturally?

SD: I usually learn from my mistakes and always try to achieve the highest possible quality at that time. When I listen to my older tracks I notice too many errors and inconsistencies in them. Avoiding that is sometimes a challenge too since it is hard to change my way of doing things. I feel that if I do something differently this time, it won't sound like Stellardrone anymore and I even delete finished tracks sometimes because of this. In the end, it is better when it all comes out, like you said, naturally. 

Prox: Do you have any huge goals you’d like to accomplish with your music? Could you see yourself doing a film score if the opportunity presented itself to you?

SD: I had many opportunities to score amateur films and video games, but I always rejected them. Creating music on demand was never my goal. I fear that if I took this route it would quickly become too commercialized and not "true" anymore and would sound the same. Take for example Cliff Martinez, one of my favourite film composers. I notice time and time again that all his tracks are almost the same. I like them, they are very unique compared to Hans Zimmer for example, but still, if he does music for one film and then makes something for another, these two soundtracks become very similar to one another. It is as if he uses one template or something. Again, I think he is one of the greatest composers of all time and his music should never go unnoticed.

Prox: Who are some of your favorite contemporary artists? Any genre newcomers that you’d recommend?

SD: I found many good musicians on (currently inactive) Earth Mantra, most notably would be Altus, a genius of symphonic ambiences. He releases at least one album each year, usually more. I already have a big collection of his works on my laptop and been listening to him for at least 6 years (if not more), and the best thing is that he also releases his music for free. I also like Carbon Based Lifeforms and Solar Fields too which, while not very new to the music scene, but very innovative. Aidan Baker (which produces more drone, noise based ambiences) but I used to listen to him a lot and it had a big impact on me. Also Bass Communion and his album Atmospherics is a must hear to anyone who likes cinematic, ambient music. And of course, the person that I mentioned before, Aaron Marshall an amazing film composer, who also has another ambient project (with his friend Marcus) titled Hydra Coil. 

Prox: Favorite hobbies?

SD: Apart from music I also like films, older, and newer cinema, doesn't matter, as long as the story is engaging. But music, listening and creating, has always been my number one. 

Prox: Tips for aspiring producers?

SD: Don't be afraid to share your music for free and as much as possible and do not try to fit into one particular genre. 

Prox: Information on upcoming projects?

SD: Probably nothing in the near future, but my 7th album should see the daylight eventually.

Prox: Final Thoughts?

SD: I'd just like to thank all the people that listen to my music, who shares it with their families and friends and everyone who supported me in any way and for all the emails and kinds words about my music. Really, it is an amazing feeling to be liked somewhere far away in different sides of the globe. Thank you.

You can learn more about Stellardrone and purchase his work, here.