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Almark: A Conversation on the Creative Process

Interviewed by Belial Pelegrim

Follow Almark on Twitter

Date on Oct 8 2015

BP: So I really enjoyed your work on the last Abstract Alpha show.

Almark: Thank you. Did you know “Return to Planet Zamede” was written 2013 or was it 2012.
It’s a rare track that no one ever listens to.

BP: No, I wasn’t sure how old it was, but it certainly fits the format to a tee!

Almark: I’m about to release my first single in a long time. A new single to “The Scheme of Things.” I’m excited about the production of it all. It just feels right, the timing to release.

BP: When are you planning to release the album?

Almark: Probably April. Like I did with -ATD- in 2014. It’s hard to say…I need to get in gear. When I set a deadline, I push myself hard to make it. Last time I pushed too hard

BP: That can happen. Do you have everything written song-wise and you’re just mixing and mastering now?

Almark: Most thoughts and ideas are in pieces…that’s how it is when I write an album. There is no % to tell you.
A-Test, U-235 and Oracle are all going to be on the album, so I had a head start earlier this year. Once again I want to write a full album…12 songs, prob 14 including special versions like I did with -ATD-. I’ve been meaning to release A-Test video for months. Now I have a reason to complete it.

BP: Very cool, man. I look forward to it. It’s interesting to hear how other musicians work…everybody has their own individualized process.

Almark: Glad to hear that. With me I have to create something, then jump to another to get it all done because I get new ideas and instead of stopping, I save the song, go to the next project and begin using what I was just messing with. Helps me to always flow forward. Reminds me of how torrents download…you know the bits of files. That’s how it is. It’s a weird process but when you have another idea you must get it out, you must tape it or it’s too late, thankfully Ableton allows me to do this. Then I might say, well 3 hours of this thing isn’t working, get a new idea and move forward. Coming back to the last song idea later and seeing if I can add more to it.

BP: I often work like that as well, at least to a certain extent. I rarely sit down and work on one project from beginning to end. I like to have several ideas going at once.

Almark: Exactly. I remember one song on -ATD- took forever to write in that process. Forever, because I couldn’t figure out what to do at the middle, how can I end this, that kind of thing.

BP: There are times I work on something for a while, then realize it’s never going to work, and trash the whole thing.

Almark: Personally it would be hard for me to trash anything I work on, I’m a digital pack-rat you know. It’s hard to work on just one project when the demand to do more than one song must be met. When I’m on a deadline, I just keep pushing, trying to outwit myself. I have songs that are not complete from 2014 for this new album. So I can work on them as well. It’s all like torrents, in pieces but each are projects to be loaded and worked on. Though I have so many musicians I hear daily, their music doesn’t upset the flow of with my thinking. I have the natural ability to block out everything when I’m writing music.

BP: I think because it’s electronic music, you’re able to work in this manner.

Almark: It’s your own world you, do you see? I know for certain that one of these ideas is about to become a full single. It’s because of ‘Live’ which imo is best DAW ever created for my own needs, that is. Keep your racks loaded from the last idea and move forward, brilliant stuff..

BP: I agree….Live is such an amazing tool. I love it

Almark: It might be I’m writing one melody and say ‘whoa, I like that but it doesn’t fit with this song’ so I save and move forward and write more to that melody, then another song is born. Then I have to cultivate it for a while and make it final. -ATD- is a very precise album. Took 9 months to develop fully, but I had to stop for 3 months because my old computer fried back in 2013, so the release date was changed to April 2014. WEATNU has kept me super busy this last year but that’s ok, its all coming to the end, an end meaning automated not so manual now. More time to work on music again. WEATNU is at a level where it takes care of itself. All I have to do is oil the machine, so to speak.

BP: That’s a good thing, because making new music is important for the soul, man.

Almark: Music is important.

BP: How do you develop your ideas for sound design? Do you work on sounds before or during the writing process?

Almark: Usually the music is created first, melodies, beats. Later I might transition into using special techniques and effects. Sometimes I might include creating strange EQ nuances. I did that on ‘High Bias’, this weird squeaking sound when the hi-hat would trigger. And coming up with a strange effect is always interesting, because you never know how it’s going to come about, usually by accident. I might start off with a drum beat created using MIDI controller, thumb and fingers, then work on that. Or a bass line synced to it to give it an edge. It’s always different. Or mysteriously I fall asleep from working for hours on a song and wake up with a weird melody, perhaps that’s called ‘Sleep writing’.

BP: [laughs]…yes even the sub-conscious comes into play.

Almark: The strangest of songs have been created from Sleep Writing’…it’s like zoning out, half awake and doodling at the keys until you get something interesting. I use to do that with guitar writing as well [laughs]

BP: And as far as automating effects and modulating over time…how much of that comes into play when you’re developing a piece?

Almark: I’m big on automation, as it’s the key to an interesting song. It comes into play after the structure is done. Most of the time I write a song with MIDI controller, get the idea done and work on it without the keyboard. Setting up automation on faders, adding stuff to return tracks do the mixing as I go. It’s kind of a process that has worked for me for 16 years, coming 2016. (Live) just makes it more unique, it lets me create little timing modules. One song might have different starts and stops for it’s reverb. Tape Head was like that. If you look at the automation happening on the front of the mixer, it’s very robotic, return volumes turning up and down in sync to the music [thought about a video to it one day] Tape Head needs a video, but I’m selective about what footage I use, still searching.

BP: It’s quite interesting to me how these techniques really enhance and creation of electronic music.

Almark: Building blocks of sound. When it comes to melodies ‘which are important to my process’ they are like swells of sound, when you add them together in melody forms (one on top of the other), it creates chords much like orchestrations. This is probably why I call my music abstract, as there is no form or genre to it. it’s just music that fills you with many emotions. Blown Glass is a good example of this process. The three note du du du continues many times but sounds different every time. When you add many complicated and long measures of melodies and combine them, something mysterious happens. That’s how Wow-and-Flutter was born. it’s 2 songs in one. Here you have this classic thing happening in the background, which is panned for different parts one one Left channel and the other on the right. Bass clef stuff on the left, higher parts on the right. Indecently I am not an expert at reading music, I only feel when I write it. Completely by ear.

BP: The fact that the technology allows for this kind of experimentation, wild things can happen.

Almark: It’s like having endless tape, where you can mangle and mess with the sound any way you like…Ableton is brilliant software.
BP: What about utilizing samples of organic instruments vs. synthetic sounds in the scheme of things?

Almark: When it comes to sampling, I will find sounds from anything I can, any movie, anything that suits what I’m looking for and change it where you can’t tell what it is. Being abstract allows for these kind of ideas. Good example to this is my album The Nineteen Eighty Four show, using only the sounds and music parts from the film. Then I add these swells of melodies, usually 3 seconds long to play all over the keyboard like instruments. Also synthesizers are all created from VST, like on -ATD-. I use to use more analog keyboards, but the transition to digital happened with me in 2009. I don’t use real instruments in my process, but it’s always been considered.. Perhaps in time. In fact I’ve been craving a new method, to form the sounds I’m after with a high quality condenser mic. Sampling is what makes music interesting, doing it right and making things your own. I don’t always sample, it’s just part of my unique process to the music. Sampling is otherworldly, if done right, organically. Thought Patterns in ‘Documentary’ Form is a good example of that idea, plenty of sampling happening on that album.

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Almark: -ATD-

Almark’s first release to Weatnu Records was the abstract electronic album ATD. A collection of grooving, semi-dark synth pop tracks mixed with atmospheric electronic soundscapes.

Album opener, ’32 bit’, captures that ‘Reproduction’ and ‘Travelogue’ era Human League vibe, dark synthpop without being too dark. There are several tracks like this (‘High Bias’ and ‘IC’ to name two) that delight the ears and soothe the soul. Other tracks (‘Flip-Flop’, ‘Digital Mountains’ and ‘Binary Fathoms’ plus more) create a binary image in the mind’s eye of desolate landscapes filled with wonder and awe. ‘Captain Capstan’ even has, what can only be described as, the sound of an engaged telephone tone pulsating throughout. Title track, ‘ATD’, brings a Kraftwerk feel to the proceedings with good use of a vocoder to add some vocal elements. It is truly captivating stuff.

-ATD- will enhance your record collection. It is an album, perfect for headphones and quiet thinking time, which deserves to be listened to whilst shutting out the world. Allow the textures that Almark creates wash over you and carry you to a distant place where nothing else matters at all. Allow yourself to gaze in wonder at mountainous valleys and galactic stars as Almark transports you beyond the confines of your ordinary world. A magical and safe journey can be had by all.

Rich James#WEATNU Digital Magazine

Buy -ATD- through Weatnu Records

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Musicians and their social presence.

If you’re a musician you know how important it is to be in touch with your fans. It is even more important for them to have access to your daily information. While social media may appear to be troublesome to have around, it is in fact very useful if used correctly. Ask any record label and they will tell you that artists must have twitter to succeed, and while some are socially shy, it’s better to have one facebook/twitter than to have nothing at all.

I’ve been posting my music for many years, 5 now, I went through using Facebook, IRC channels and finally twitter. Once I found twitter, then I found what helped me get music out to a wider audience. I cannot tell enough about the absolute importance and benefits of having a twitter account. The marketing value is just part of it. When you open a twitter account you now have access to the entire platform of twitter itself, given you use tags properly and post about what you are seeking, making friends etc. Building a bond with others, not just self-promo but promoting their music too. This is how #WEATNU was started. The simple act of re-tweeting another artist. But to maintain social presence you have to be in social presence.

Facebook likes aren’t enough to gain any type of clout, because if you have few fans, then few people will listen to you. There comes a time where you must self-promote and do it often, and not just one song but many songs, or various info. Be creative and supportive at the same time. The Internet is getting much larger now and more competitive. You are essentially competing to get your information out there to others. Twitter is more important than people realize. When a new artist wishes to be with #WEATNU all they have to do is have twitter, it’s that simple. Having twitter gives us the means to showcase them for this magazine, radio and label. When you promote yourself, you can’t just post and go, you have to interact and do it often. Eventually you meet others and make friends and share music with one-another. Sending in your music to net-radio, blogs and magazines is the best way to get your social presence, yet it doesn’t stop there. Twitter is probably the most important social media site in the world, and more musicians are using it everyday. It’s not just about celebs anymore, (while they do well interacting with their fans) it too works well for the indie scene. Soon #WEATNU DM will have social media tips by Tracy Perry, host of “Expansion of Presence”, a weekly indie show broadcasted to Mixcloud. Be sure to check back on #WEATNU DM for more info in the future.

Almark – #WEATNU Digital Magazine

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Interview with Almark

‘Founder of #WEATNU and Electronic artist. Almark has written abstract electronic music since 1998. He had a few words to speak about We are the New Underground. Also his music, videos and future plans.’

Craig Manga – As founder of #WEATNU and the workload that entails, how do you keep your own musical identity afloat in such a sea of electronic talent? Do you time manage?

Almark – Yes, I do one thing at a time, pacing myself the best I can, it’s real discipline. I have to make myself be organized or fail. More like I work toward doing three things at once, a constant multi-task. laughs

CM- Do you see making music as relaxing, or still workload?

Almark – Music is my life, and the number one reason why I formed weatnu. When I have the time, I seize it. Just as I was going to finish a video to “Oracle” that I’ve been working on for a few days, but it slipped past me to do this interview, but there’s always tomorrow and that’s ok too.

Oracle from Almark (SynthoElectro) on Vimeo.

CM- You’ve been flitting across your career from circa 98, with various tunes on soundcloud, etc. and spotted several key influences, noted by yourself. But you don’t seem to sound like any of them. You stay individual and original. Amongst them, one of my fav, Severed Heads. Care to comment?

Almark – I’ve always played to my own drummer, or in this case, “electronic drummer”. It’s kind of like I work on a new thing until I feel it becomes my own creation, I have tried to sound like other people, even 14 years ago, I gave up long ago. – laughs. The influences are there of course, and sometimes they even appear in my past works, but it always ends up different. I believe that an artist should “if they can” be original and do something crazy and new. With each song and album, I change completely, that is what happened with the past 2 albums. Though I come back and re-visit my roots from time to time. Maybe one day I’ll drag out the Mirage and make some gritty Industrial again. You were saying? Ah yes, Severed Heads! Though I had a few influences before the Sevs, I can say that Tom Ellard’s music influenced me greatly into the electronic artist I have become, but that was the beginning, in 2000, the primed moment for me; very fond memories during that year. After 2012, I started moving deeper into the rabbit hole.

CM- Almark in Wonderland?

Almark – Musically? I think I was there long ago, some of my stuff is very strange, like the Nineteen Eighty Four Show, something I feel is my greatest masterpiece, but only gains the attention of a select few.

CM- Many, many touchstones, but I hear that weaving of Industrial tropes into your work. A favorite genre?

Almark – Actually yes, I can think back to the first time I heard Industrial. In 1992 a friend in HS gave me a recorded tape of NIN Broken and Pretty Hate Machine. I played that tape to death, hearing the static quality that appears at the beginning gave me the raw intake into what Industrial really was. Later it was Ministry’s “Psalm 69, and the story continues on into 1997 when I got into Goth, EBM, Darkwave, taking me into the electronica sounds of late 90s. I was listening to Grunge/Tool/ Soundgarden/Nirvana, at the time but started turning my head to electronic completely by 2000. Thanks to Mtv “The AMP” and Stitch.com, website. Gone since late 90s. Then later groovetech.com, gone too, in 2000. I can certainly say that Industrial was my driving force and still is, into what my music has become throughout the years. Severed Heads is a prime example of weird industrial machine sounding, meshed with quirky pop tunes and I love it. Tom Ellard’s music was personal to me and untouched by the masses. I love things like that, that are untouched by the masses such as, Dalis Car, Peter Murphy, Mick Karn , RIP.

Wow-and-Flutter from -ATD- from Almark (SynthoElectro) on Vimeo.

CM- If you had to put a label on such a diverse body of work, what would it be?

Almark – I call it void-music but most of the time I say abstract electronic, and since the abstract is not a genre, that makes me even more happy, I’ve been doing this for a long time. The music started turning avant-garde or electronic / avant-garde early 2013, I felt it at first then someone brought up the conversation one day about the music I write, so there we have it. I suppose it doesn’t mesh well with the masses, and that pleases me.

CM – Personal question, like many artists, musicians and poets, we are usually diagnosed with A.D.D. how about yourself?

Almark – I believe that A.D.D. is nothing more than societies way of forcing on you their standards, do this, do that, don’t think this and that. It crushes the creative spirit of a person. Like many in my age group, I too was “lied to” into thinking this. And yes teachers love to tell your parents to force feed that poison into your body. When you start to realize, it isn’t you that’s the problem, that is when you free yourself from it’s bondage. Whatever it is. Without it I wouldn’t have creativity, it’s a gift not a curse. I personally think it’s a way to tell people they are different, and there is nothing wrong with different.

CM – Sorry, tell me why I thought that?

Almark – Yes?

CM – I have it too, I call it “spinning plate syndrome”. flitting from project to project, multiple genres to pique my interest.

Almark – I mean, I have incredible focus these days, this wasn’t so when I was a kid, pills didn’t help, that’s for sure. I think it’s a gift, society views it as “un-normal”. ADD isn’t a problem, it’s a rebellion, no doctor in the world can tell us that.

CM – I believe ADD is a key addition to making interesting creative music.

Almark – I believe you are right.

CM – The melodies, do you always have to wait for them to surface or is there ever a melody knocking around in the cranium? And you just have to get them out on midi?

Almark -Yes, I must get them out of the mind, so I jot them down “so to speak” on MIDI. Lot’s of snippets are in projects that way. This gives me the edge over finishing my work, that’s how a lot of -ATD- was created. If I allow myself, then the melodies come, usually in some kind of drum beat with my hands, sometimes I take my hands and make a beat, since ableton live 9 allows for MIDI translation I did that on a few songs, even lately, A-Test may have been one of those. But sometimes I hear a melody for months in my head, I still have one from 14 years ago, never created; one day I will.

CM – You a player or step-writer?

Almark – Certainly a player, as I play by ear, which I am most comfortable with. And the music is composed, both hands on the keys. This is a dying art I might add, with the flood of Ableton push devices in the market now.

CM – Play any other instruments?

Almark – I began playing guitar in ’92, then bass. Started by learning metal then progressed into electronic and computer composition in 1998 with Fasttracker II DOS program. In 2000 I finally owned my first keyboard and just started messing with it. I still play guitar today. I dabbled with real drums once, and started to get them down, until my friend took them back – laughs.

CM – So, the process. How do you begin to build your sound?

Almark – I begin with a blank project, no effects, no instruments on the screen. By using MIDI keyboard controller and Ableton live, while utilizing VST. I find complete silence, and start to work. Sometimes the melodies come and if I sit there long enough then happy little accidents start happening. Those are the pinnacle of music, the accidents you didn’t mean to do, the timbres and elements of a deeper sound. That’s how “Thought Patterns in “Documentary” Form” was created and High Bias from -ATD

CM – Softsynths then?

Almark – Yes, I use to use hardware and software together, but in 2009 the digital transition happened with me because I was seeking a different sound, then finally through discovery I found it, now I nurture that sound.

CM – Thought Patterns in “Documentary” Form, that’s your favorite work, isn’t it?

Almark – Oh yes, there is something surreal about that album, it puts me in such a mood that I can’t explain, it brought me to the avant-garde and I plan on continuing down its path on the new live show “The vibes show” which is a setup but uncompleted from 2013. If light were any brighter, that is how I feel listening to “Thought Patterns in “Documentary” Form”, but I have a new album on the horizon, “The Scheme of Things”. I also sing, but you wouldn’t know it, with my recent tracks, go back a few years and listen to Devoted, Melancholy Heart, 1000 Machines and Sodium Penthanol and Sun Temple with Thalie Nemesis on our duo Melancholy Imagery.

1000 Machines from Almark (SynthoElectro) on Vimeo.

CM – Listening to your stuff: I hear elements of electronic soundtrack in there. A John Carpenter fan? Bladerunner soundtrack, do u own it? Vangelis is underrated.

Almark – Oh yeah, love Carpenter, mostly “Escape From New York”. I’ve seen the movie Bladerunner but I’m not a Vangelis fan actually, I appreciate his work though. My earlier songs were touching at John Carpenter, but only a few of them. I also have a love for 80s soundtracks, Fletch, with the Faltermeyer riffs, even stuff from Firestarter, Manhunter. Those were written by Tangerine Dream.

CM – There’s a chill, nay glacial heart to your work. the drum machine beats an “erratic tattoo”

Almark – I believe in kick, snare drums, I’m not in love with the hi-hat, though I have used it quite extensively on certain sounds and albums. I create my drums by keyboard playing. If it were my world I would remove drums and make music with silence, which is something I have been thinking deeply about for years, this.. music of silence and one day I hope this journey ends up there. I can almost feel it; I think a lot. I also create music in my head, without the music, there is a lot of thinking going on for weeks sometimes. Those beats you speak of are elements of “EBM/Industrial” but it goes deeper than that.

CM – favorite Soundtracks (inc. non electronic)?

Almark – John Berry soundtracks, those Bond soundtracks are breath-taking, the man was a genius composer. I would have to say John Williams or course. I’m very much in love with composing, and even jazz, Classical. But there are some amazing scores of Williams, Indiana Jones for one, every scene. Modern soundtracks, composers like Mark Snow from The X-Files and a few new composers just showing up in the film world, but I can’t think of their names, amazing music. A lot of these types are very avant-garde and it’s good to see the world embracing such extremes.

CM- “Almark played to his own drummer”… A fitting epitaph (discuss, applied to your music and the WEATNU)

CM – Finally: What would you ask yourself as a final difficult question?

Almark – I would ask, “how deep is existence”, but never find its answer.

You can purchase music from Almark through his bandcamp and WEATNU Records.

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