Florida’s Greg Kyryluk has been producing stellar dub and psychedelic ambient music under monikers like Alpha Wave Movement, Within Reason, and Open Canvas for over two decades now. Emerging with the “Berlin School” (a collection of producers who created the backbone for what we now classify as ambient electronica during the 70s and 80s) Greg has found an audience byinterpreting and transforming the classic sound this genre is known for decades.
Greg has been using his own label, Harmonic Resonance Recordings, as a way to distribute and control the way that his music is handled and give artists what he believes to be fair compensation for their works. He has also had the pleasure of having his music featured in video games like Grand Theft Auto and television shows like True Blood.
In this interview, me and Greg speak about his take on the ambient genre, influences, and his feelings on his music as a conduit or spiritual or religious practices.
Prox: Why did you decide to create Harmonic Resonance Recordings? What is the significance of the name and the aim of the label?
Greg: I created HRR because I knew the market was saturated in the mid 1990s with record labels and the labels didn't pay the artists what I believed to be a fair percentage of each sale. The upside of starting my own label would mean I would have total creative control. The downside, and it's not a big issue really, would mean I would have to do the leg work making contacts, shipping and getting distribution. In the mid 1990s without a PC or home computer, it was a lot of cold calling and sending out promotional packages to stores etc. But at the end of the day, I was selling my own music and getting some really great feedback from listeners and DJs. I have of course released music on other labels in the last 20 years, but on a strictly one off sort of deal.
Harmonic represents a wave shape or pattern and resonance is significant of the music "resonating" with people. Thus, Harmonic Resonance the name of the label came about because I simply wanted a name that would depict my musical intentions with listeners.
The aim of the label was to release my solo recordings as well as miscellaneous collaborative projects with like minded musicians.
Prox: Do you think Miami had an impact on the kind of music you ended up producing as it was also one of the main disseminators of dance and synth-wave in the U.S?
Greg: Interesting question. I don't know if Miami per-se influenced my music in the sense, it is today predominantly Hispanic so my music I guess, should by proxy have that sort of influence but it does not. I admire Latin Jazz quite a bit but it's not something I ever felt compelled to pursue as a musician! I’ve always felt more Euro-centric when it came to music, still do in fact.
I wouldn't go as far as admitting Miami in the 1990s was the epicenter of the rave/techno dance movement (I think Chicago was more of that) but there was the token college radio playing ambient music late night which I sort of gravitated towards. I believe I was introduced to some of the late Fax Germany electronica because of local radio.
The techno/rave thing in the early 1990s did catch my attention because it was "different" and was dominated by electronics, sampling, etc of which Rock and Roll was weaning off by the late 1980s. So groups like Soma, 808 State, and Massive Attack were bands I was listening to back then but the music did not influence what I was creating at an early stage. In the early 1990s I was just staring to compose with release of my debut Transcendence in 1995/6. I was interested in more introspective electronica, instead of dance/rave and drug culture.
In fact, I was first exposed to the influence of Kitaro (in my early teens) in the mid 1980s on a VH1 cable show that had a clip of Kitaro performing on his synths in a Japanese concert. That and finding used Jean Michel Jarre & Synergy LP's in the cut out bins definitely shaped my interest in alt instrumental music. I think reading an interview with Steve Roach in Music Technology back in the 1980s really introduced me to ambient music. Here was a guy talking about making music with no real prior experience, drawing on just an emotional level to convey that inner art. I also liked the fact he was using old analog technology which at the time, my Moog was all I had!
Prox: You were also inspired by the “Berlin School”, a group of composers heading up the synthesizer movement of the 70s and 80s. Was there anything that you did to ensure that you stood out from those artists or were you comfortable being associated with that outfit?
Greg: Well the "Berlin School" aesthetic was evolutionary back in the 1970s and into the 1980s so anyone remotely interested in making/listening to the alternative modern instrumental music that was not on the radio was sure to seek out Jarre, Tangerine Dream, Klaus and Ashra in the local record stores. But don't forget in the US the 1980s was a jubilant time for New Age music and deep within the syrup laden top soil, there was some very cool and interesting "DIY" musicians making great electronic music. A favorite was a disc by Hiroshi Yoshimura called "Green" brilliant minimalist driven ambient music.
Of course I listened to quite a bit of that style of music i.e. Berlin-school and always enjoyed it's semi free-form structure. Rhythmically, you had the sequencers and drum machines creating a sort of trance like foundation where the musician(s) could then improvise and the music didn't necessarily have to fall into the 3 minute listening cage either. I know this is a stretch, but I like Jazz not only for the technical virtuosity, but more so for the freedom the musicians have within the context of the music. I mean one thing that to this day I admire in some electronic music and some forms of jazz is that there's a real freedom to improvise and express oneself, something that really structured mainstream music just doesn't have.
I don't really consciously try and distinguish my music from any other musician. At the end of the day, our own unique style will aways permeate our individual accomplishments. I think in certain aspects like the sounds I tend to gravitate towards is in a sense my signature musically.
Prox: This brand of ambient music has pretty much become synonymous with science-fiction, do you think that this is a fair association?
Greg: I will admit to being influenced by people like astronomer Carl Sagan and Frank Drake but more so to the untold mysteries of the vast cosmos. Not all of what I create in the "ambient" style is of that focus however. I draw a lot of inspiration from traveling in the US (especially the wide open deserts of the southwestern US) and the lush green Northwest and deep blue Pacific Ocean. It's these timeless environments that I try and capture in my releases like "Eolian Reflections" and "Harmonic Currents" for example.
Prox: You’ve had some of your worked was featured in video games (Grand Theft Auto IV) and television (True Blood). Could you ever see yourself composing for these mediums or have you done so already?
Greg: Those happened by chance really. The owners of the Grand Theft Auto game picked up a track from my debut release Transcendence and I am surmising this was when MySpace was in it's heyday or from a show playing a track from that disc. I was actually moved that a video game wanted not only my music, but also the fact it was ambient music and not the usual 4/4 techno driving music I might have expected in a game of that nature. The True Blood connection came channeled via Waveform records. The music director wanted to use the music from my ethno-electronica project Open Canvas. Again, it was fascinating to see the longevity of music I had recorded over a decade and a half ago! I'm always grateful people are interested in using the music in different mediums.
In reality, publishing and licensing is where an artist can really make a stipend for their labor. In today's world, selling CDs/records is not the way to make a return on your music as it is just too competitive. Getting the music into commercials and film is a good route to take IF you know how to network within the industry. It does require a lot of energy, but in the end the reward is two fold: Your music getting wider exposure and of course, the pay off so you can now go purchase that giant modular synth you have always dreamt of!
Prox: Has the production of ambient music had an effect on your spiritual beliefs and practices?
Greg: Religion and spiritualism to many people mean two different things. I do not wear my indoctrinated religious beliefs on my sleeve but I do wholeheartedly believe that sacred music is transcendent. Music can lift you up and sound has a negative or positive psycho-active effect on us. If the people listening to my music are utilizing it as a platform for meditation or spiritualism, then I believe I have contributed to a higher cause.
Prox: In an older interview you said “funny how every time drugs are involved in a creative way, everything just becomes more interesting for some”. Is this statement true for yourself as well? Has any particular substance(s) contributed to the quality of your work?
Greg: Well I am not an advocate of hard drugs, but I do believe when an individual(s) detach from our hum drum, cold and calculated everyday life in the concrete jungle by way of a foreign substance, sometimes, and only then, can we perceive music/art from an alternate angle. Drugs have and are still being used in many indigenous cultures for channeling into another world. I believe the shaping of society and culture at some level was influenced by drugs of the non synthetic variety. I believe society today tries to stagnate individual creativity and sometimes it takes these psychoactive "helpers" to achieve and find those artistic crossroads. Perhaps certain natural pharma are there for a reason we have yet to fully understand. I know natural medicine has it's validity!
Prox: One of your side projects, Within Reason, is still full of the deep ambient soundscapes we’ve become accustomed to in your productions, but features a more contemporary downtempo or dub feel. Why did you decide to create this project and why did you choose that particular production moniker?
Greg: The Within Reason project began as sort of an experimental alternative, but semi parallel universe to my Alpha Wave Movement alias. I was introduced to the music of Theorom via a local DJ in Miami back in the 1990s. I later discovered Yagya and Rod Modells music and although it was radically different then the sequencer/ambient melodic music I had been composing over the years, I felt the urge to try and create some music in that sort of style. I don't try to consciously emulate, but I do draw certain aesthetics from different styles of music so I combined some of the more "cosmic" elements of my AWM project with dubby bass-lines and glitchy percolating electronic percussion loops. I tend to use a lot more sampled loops and non-hardware based synthesis with the Within Reason project.
Prox: Who are some of your favorite contemporary artists?
Greg: Well off the bat I'm a big fan of the old ECM label jazz but Nik Barsch's Ronin. It's all acoustic jazz except for the Rhodes electric piano but it's not atypical jazz and definitely non dissonant. Ronin is sort of Terry Riley meets Bill Evans. Very interesting stuff. I'm also a recent fan of Zombi, a US based synth/prog rock ensemble. I like the co-mingling of synths with the rock energy, sort of what Cybotron (an Australian band) was doing back in the 1970s. But in all honestly I am more into digging into the odd crevices of forgotten music that I am beginning to see reemerge on Bandcamp. There really is a lot of interesting music from the last 2-3 decades ambient/new age/jazz what have you that's being made available again. Besides, I as of late tend to like that unpolished DIY aesthetic!
Prox: Favorite hobbies?
Greg: Freshly ground coffee, photography, and hiking! I also enjoy cooking, something else that came as naturally to me as making music.
Prox: Tips for aspiring artists and label owners?
Greg: You got to work harder today to network and get the word out. With the loss of real physical record stores, the dynamics of selling music have changed quite a bit. I am still not a huge fan of social media (whatever that means today) but whatever it takes to get people introduced to your music/art... Do it! I will say this, iTunes in 2016 accounts for a bulk of my sales so getting your music exposed and available for purchase on all the digital sales platforms is key. I own my own label but I honestly don't know how a label (especially in the ambient electronica genre) can stay above water when pressing quality vinyl. It's cost prohibitive for someone like me. Unless you have really good distributions, you might be breaking even on sales.
Prox: Information on upcoming releases and projects?
Greg: I just released Alpha Wave Movement "Kinetic" this year and I will possibly be working on a new Within Reason CD later this year. The Open Canvas and a few other older projects are now defunct but still available for curious ears to purchase on Bandcamp!
Prox: Final Thoughts?
Greg: I appreciate your interest in my music and had a wonderful time answering your questions. I think your website is a necessity to proliferate the word on this style of music.
You can learn more about Greg, here.
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