Riding the Soundcurrent: Steve Roach on Ambient Music, Creative Energy, and Introspection.

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Photo Credit: Adam Fleishman

If you're familiar with ambient music, there is a good chance you've heard of Steve Roach.

Having amassed a dedicated fanbase as a result of his deep, prolific catalogue, Steve has immortalized himself into the metaphorical ambient music Hall of Fame.

Steve's earthy atmosphere coupled with an impressive array of synth compositions makes for quite the experience.

He was introduced to the scene with his debut album Now in 1982, but soon found himself the subject of tremendous acclaim for his sonic excursions, Structures from Silence and Dreamtime Return.

With a resume spanning the greater part of three decades and consistently mentioned as one of the greatest ambient acts of all time, it is with great pleasure that I bring you an interview with him. Here, we discuss the nature of the creative impetus and solitude.

Photo Credit: Adam Fleishman

Prox: You’ve stated in previous interviews that you live a fairly monastic lifestyle. How does this practice empower you and your music? 

Steve: The monastic aspect is centered around long stretches of alone time working at my remote desert studio – The Timehouse. While I am married to an artist and writer Linda Kohanov for 27 years, we have no children, our focus remains directed into our art, we are in full support of this priority and whatever it takes to nourish the creative flow in our lives together and as individuals.

In my case the need to be in the creative zone for long periods focused on music and sound creation is as natural and important as breathing, for me.

Growing up with no brothers or sisters could have taken me in a few obvious directions.

Prox: What kind of information do you find yourself absorbing from introspection and silence? Would you say your creative impetus is a result of needing to translate this information to your listeners?

Steve: The information that is discovered, absorbed and transmuted into my being during the creative process is revealed directly into the music. The best answer I can give for this is to listen to my work. Also the titles you see for the pieces and albums are important aspects to these states as well, like a key to a door that the piece is living behind. 

The impetus to create is internally motivated, so no, the creative impulse is not from a need to translate to an audience.

I create the spaces I do out of an internal motivation, desire, and the sensation I experience in the soundcurrent.  At the same time, I feel a circle of connection is made complete when I release a piece out into the world and hear the feedback.

Prox: How have spiritual disciplines like shamanism impacted your personal philosophy on life? Have you ever experimented with psychedelics or any other mind-altering practices?

Steve: I have never taken on or joined up with a specific discipline such as shamanism, Eastern philosophy, or any of the many options out there. I certainly was surrounded by all this growing up in Southern California, but always felt apart from it all in its more organized forms. At the same time, I have explored many of these worlds in my own way. Above all the devotion to the art of living in the deep end of sound, and translating this as I do is what can be considered the core of my path. In terms of the psychedelic and mind altering component, I have said for years the music is the medicine, pure and simple. My aim is to create pure organic psychoactive music in and of itself. For me the desire to experience, as the late renowned psychonaut Terence Mckenna would say, “the heroic dose” is reached by engaging directly into the soundcurrent for extended periods of creative time, day into night, day after day over many years now.

Photo Credit: Linda Kohanov

Prox: What do you think it is that still drives and motivates you to create after all these years?

Steve: I feel connected to a sense of life turned up to 11 that has no time date, not old or new, I feel connected to the continuum of being alive.

The excitement of stepping into the unknown mixed with a sense of being compelled to create something that’s right at the tips of your perception. Whatever this is that keeps your body breathing, heart pumping and mind craving to immerse in sound feels constant and connected to a through line back in time, in the now and forward into the near future. 

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Prox: Is there anything in particular that has been the most beneficial influence on your work?

Steve: As a balance to the studio life exercise is vital for keeping the creative juices flowing, the health on track and the mind activated. Along with hiking and other things I have been riding Mountain Bikes for over 30 years. I engage in something physical most everyday and crave to be outside in my desert environment when not focused in the studio. The stream of ideas and inspiration is another benefit.

Prox: Who are some of your favorite artists, creative, or intellectuals?

Steve: All of these remain essential sources of inspiration and feed my soul on many levels.

H.R. Giger, Mark Rothko, Yves Tanguy, David Cronenberg, Meshuggah, Robert Plant, Klaus Schulze, ECM, Jon Hassell, Stanislav Grof

Prox: Any more information on other upcoming projects and releases?

Steve: I always have several projects running in parallel, after steady requests I am releasing Eclipse Mix on CD later this year. I made this piece for the August Solar Eclipse and placed it on Bandcamp exclusively as a download on that day. Also currently carving on a wonderful floating large format analog synth-sequencer centered release that taps deeper into my Berlin school roots. 2018 marks the 30th anniversary of my release Dreamtime Return. I am currently working on a 74-minute version of Looking For Safety for this occasion. This piece from the Dreamtime release still haunts me and this desire to expand and immerse in its feeling is now my obsession. The sense of moving within the strata of time is front and center on this one.

Also working on a limited edition deep end of the zone release for mid 2018. I am hand printing each cover, something I love to do and keep the connection alive with the presentation of my music and a physical hand made piece of art. 

Prox:  Final Thoughts?

Steve: Many thanks for your interest, to those taking the time to read this, and to experience my music.

You can purchase Steve's work on his Bandcamp and remember to swing by his website and the Projekt store.

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