Almark: A Conversation on the Creative Process
Interviewed by Belial Pelegrim
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!
<iframe style="border: 0; width: 100%; height: 120px;" src="https://bandcamp.com/EmbeddedPlayer/track=3217943495/size=large/bgcol=333333/linkcol=0f91ff/tracklist=false/artwork=small/transparent=true/" seamless><a href="https://synthoelectro.bandcamp.com/track/return-to-planet-zamede">Return to Planet Zamede by Almark</a></iframe>
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
<iframe style="border: 0; width: 100%; height: 120px;" src="https://bandcamp.com/EmbeddedPlayer/track=1216565382/size=large/bgcol=333333/linkcol=0f91ff/tracklist=false/artwork=small/transparent=true/" seamless><a href="https://synthoelectro.bandcamp.com/track/a-test-single">A-Test (single) by Almark</a></iframe>
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.
<iframe style="border: 0; width: 100%; height: 120px;" src="https://bandcamp.com/EmbeddedPlayer/album=2643682240/size=large/bgcol=333333/linkcol=0f91ff/tracklist=false/artwork=small/transparent=true/" seamless><a href="https://synthoelectro.bandcamp.com/album/songs-from-the-scheme-of-things-singles">Songs from 'The Scheme of Things' (singles) by Almark</a></iframe>
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.
<iframe style="border: 0; width: 100%; height: 120px;" src="https://bandcamp.com/EmbeddedPlayer/album=2548950552/size=large/bgcol=333333/linkcol=0f91ff/tracklist=false/artwork=small/track=814005402/transparent=true/" seamless><a href="https://synthoelectro.bandcamp.com/album/atd-4">-ATD- by Almark</a></iframe>
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.
<iframe style="border: 0; width: 100%; height: 120px;" src="https://bandcamp.com/EmbeddedPlayer/album=2548950552/size=large/bgcol=333333/linkcol=e99708/tracklist=false/artwork=small/transparent=true/" seamless><a href="https://synthoelectro.bandcamp.com/album/atd-4">-ATD- by Almark</a></iframe>
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’.
<iframe style="border: 0; width: 100%; height: 120px;" src="https://bandcamp.com/EmbeddedPlayer/album=2548950552/size=large/bgcol=333333/linkcol=e99708/tracklist=false/artwork=small/track=3050080476/transparent=true/" seamless><a href="https://synthoelectro.bandcamp.com/album/atd-4">-ATD- by Almark</a></iframe>
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.
<iframe style="border: 0; width: 100%; height: 120px;" src="https://bandcamp.com/EmbeddedPlayer/album=2548950552/size=large/bgcol=333333/linkcol=e99708/tracklist=false/artwork=small/track=1541706820/transparent=true/" seamless><a href="https://synthoelectro.bandcamp.com/album/atd-4">-ATD- by Almark</a></iframe>
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.