Kuutana Interview - Sequential Dreams Legends Album
Post date: May 19, 2016 3:6:59 PM
"I was very much amazed by the dedication to producing the highest possible quality sound for the album"
Kuutana Interview (by Wolf Red) - May 2016
Editor's Note: Kuutana was the lead producer for Sequential Dreams "Legends" Album.
Interview by Wolf Red , radio programmer at Modul303.com - Listen to Modul303.com for the best in electronic music!
Check the end of this article for some credits information.
Wolf Red: This is your seventh Sequential Dreams production, why the “Legends” theme? Anything to do with Tangerine Dream’s “Legend” movie soundtrack?
Kuutana: I guess I had that question coming. Of course I am and have been a Tangerine Dream fan for over forty years now! I certainly have much appreciated TD’s work on movie soundtracks, and the Legend soundtrack is no exception. No, it’s not that I set out to directly follow in those footsteps. Rather, I find that I have gone through “musical moods” over the years. At any one given period, I realise that I gravitate around a certain set of parameters that define my sound for that period. Tracks I was producing at the time reminded me of the early to mid eighties TD. As a few of them were ending up with some pretty intense finales, I was thinking that I would need some lighter tracks to let lister “catch their breath” as it were. Then, as chance would have it, I had won a CD called “Fire in the Rainstorm” by pianist Kori L Carothers while listening in on a radio show produced by UK’s Terry James Hawke on Harborough FM. After driving around with the CD a day or two it struck me hard that the lovely inspiring melodies produced by Kori was exactly what was needed for the album! So I contacted her and she was happy to work with me on the project, providing some alternative unpublished takes of her recordings she had made while at Will Ackerman’s Imaginary Road studios. You see, while I was listening to her beautiful piano tracks, I was also hearing all kinds of added synthesizer and guitar arrangements in my head that would make a few of the tracks quite ideal for the sound I was looking for. After I sent the newly reformulated Sequential Dreams version of a track, Kori made the statement that it reminded her of Tangerine Dreams’ “Legend” soundtrack. I grabbed on to this statement and gave it some thought. I then came to me that “Legends” (i.e.: Legends in general, not just one!) would be a lovely theme for the album! And that guided themes from there on into the production. Also, I worked with graphic artist Andreas Schwietzke throughout the production of the album as his artwork then provided inspiration to guide the creative process. (Editor’s note: see also comments from Bernhard Beibl on this).
Wolf Red: This new Sequential Dreams album sees the introduction of non other than Bernhard Beibl, ex-Tangerine Dream guitarist. How did this come about?
Kuutana: Well, I had already come to a point in the production of the album where it really could have just been delivered as-is. All tracks were complete, and pretty groomed - ready for the stores! But as I always do, I was spending marathon hours listening to the album over a period of a few weeks so to get a sense of how I would feel about the album in the long term (I like to think that I’d produce an album that you’d like to come back to and listen more than once!). I felt that something was missing. Then, as I often do!, I was watching my Tangerine Dream concert DVDs, and it struck me how Berni’s guitar helped TD’s sound break out of the “déjà-vu” feeling you get after listening to the same tracks over and over again. If you look at TD concert footage where Berni “breaks loose” and does some of his amazing guitar solos, you know what I mean. I told myself, I have nothing to lose by inviting him to lay down some guitar work on the album. So I got in touch with him to make the proposition. After he heard a few of my demo tracks, I was very pleasantly surprised by a very positive response to my offer! I was quite delighted that he would agree to work on the project! Of course, we have long distances that separate us. He’s based in Austria, whereas I’m based in Canada. However, Berni is also very technically adept and with the help of modern technology (digital audio workstations and the internet) we had no problems spending countless hours building up amazingly new reformulations of several tracks on the album! I was very much amazed by the dedication to producing the highest possible quality sound for the album.
Berni has a razor sharp ear for timing. I was very much impressed. Also, his guitar technique is outstanding. If you listen to his passages on the Legends album, you’ll hear everything from very folksy acoustic, through “Gilmour-ish” slides, tap-on arpeggiations that will have you wondering if you’re listening to a synth instead of a guitar and even more so, the way out of this world special fx sounding guitars of the “Event Horizon” track that for me, brought me right back to that feeling I got when listening to Pink Floyd’s time filming at the Pompeii coliseum during the peak of the psychedelic days. To top it off, I was treated to some wonderfully rich violin playing which totally changed the sound of “Mission to Shangri-La” (which, btw, was originally titled “Tangerine Tree”) but Berni advised me to avoid irritating someone who might not take too kindly to my using “Tangerine” in any of my titles ;)For me, working with Berni was an amazing experience.
Wolf Red: You are also credited with having composed and performed guitars for several of your tracks. How did you divide up the guitar work between Berni and yourself?Kuutana:Well, as I said, the album was already considered nearly complete by the time Berni joined the project. Of course, the sound of it changed in a massive way after we reworked it to bring it to a whole different level together. However, I already had laid down guitar tracks on several tracks. After analysing the material, we came to a consensus on which of my guitar contributions should be kept and which sections which would be best served by Berni’s outstanding guitar skills. Whereas I tend to have a much more synthesized guitar sound (which Berni mentioned reminding him much of Edgar’s tendency to drown guitars in FX), Berni really prefers limiting FX to very distinctive delay FX and specific reverb settings. I much appreciated my conversations with him which led to my developing these FX settings in my rig, which I could then apply to the dry-recorded guitar tracks I received from him. I got to appreciate what made up “Berni’s sound” and felt rather privileged that he would share his “magic ingredients” for FX the way he did. As the touring season was heating up, towards the end of the album production cycle, Berni had to spend much more time on the road. We spent many many weeks refining single tracks and got nearly 40 minutes work of tracks with Berni’s contributions recorded, but as I wanted to make this a long album (76 minutes) there were still a few tracks where I wanted more “Berni sounding” guitars. So, I re-recorded a few tracks like “The Big Apple” and “One Giant Leap” to also include more guitars, which I performed, sometimes using some elements of Berni’s FX configuration to try to bring in some consistence. Of course my sound is much more “drowned in FX” haha, as Berni would say ;)
Wolf Red: You also have Japanese composer and producer Ryo Utasato revisiting the Sequential Dreams line-up. Can you say a few words on that?Kuutana:Well, I’ve always been very respectful of Ryo’s work. Her special blend of traditional music inspired sound but rendered with a very avant-garde, cinematic, electronic music just stood well out from the masses of EM being produced out there. This is what had attracted me to do the “Liquid Fire” track with her during the “Cosmic Touch” Sequential Dreams album. When I heard her “Kurenai” demo track, which not only had those stylistic elements, but also introduced some sequenced synthesizers and haunting traditional Japanese “Matsuri chanting” - I couldn’t resist, and got in touch with her about writing up an extended version of her piece (Editor’s note: The Sequential Dreams version is twice the length of the original demo). From the moment I sat down to work on Kurenai, I was amazed by the extent of the inspirational flow that entranced me into composing many additional sections which were then merged into the original idea. Though the work was detailed and very involved, there was no sense of effort whatsoever. The flow was so good that it was just like riding a wave and the creative process took over. I am very happy with the resulting sound and often quite enchanted by how things came together is such a lovely fashion, as I listen to this piece over and over and I continue to enjoy the sound from day to day and week to week. Just as was the case with Kori, and Berni, I am very grateful to have had an opportunity to join the underlying flow of creativity set by Ryo’s creative energy.
Wolf Red: After listening to the “Legends” Album, one can sense that there are possibly a few different markets for this music, with some being almost New Age (Kori’s piano pieces) others closer to the TD sound, and then at some point we’re into electronic rock. Are you worried you might confuse your audience?
Kuutana: People who have following my work closely know that I produce across different genres. I honor whatever inspiration the Universe will send my way. But that said, the Sequential Dreams series of projects were originally aimed towards honoring the inspiration that came from TD’s music. There is certainly a segment of the TD listener market that describe themselves as “purists” with a definition of what is “real TD music” limited mostly to the first few albums coming primarily out of the seventies. While I respect their opinion, and also love the music produced during that time, I have come to respect the very wide-range of sound produced by TD across the decades. Of course I don’t love everything they have produced. But I feel there are some real gems that came out of each era. From the early modulars, to the periods that they started discovering digital synths, though Jerome Froese’s energetic introduction of a more rock orientation, up to the period where Linda Spa, Iris Camaa, and of course, Bernhard Beibl were the line-up in the last period before Edgar Froese’s passing. I think there is some really good music in all of those periods and that is what I keep to heart. So, if you consider the vast range of sound produced throughout those many decades, you’ll see that my own range in music styles, as you will find them in the Legends album, is not so very dissimilar in its inclusion of these various genres. Of course, there is always a copious bed of synthesizers, sequences, and guitars. I hope that the album can attract not only other TD music listeners with a similar opinion, but also listeners whose tastes are sufficiently eclectic as to embrace the rich variety of moods.
Wolf Red: What kind of synthesizers did you use during the production of the “Legends” album? Kuutana: Yes, a lot of my listeners are big synthesizer enthusiasts and this question comes up a lot! I’d say that my selection of synths mirror the discussion in your previous question. As I said, TD’s music being so enduring across the decades, the use of “synthesis devices” ranged from “phased distorted organs run through echo machines” (I got a good laugh from Berni on that one!) through the modular era, then digital synths, virtual analogs, wave tables, and eventually computer-based software synths. I have to say this pretty much describes the range of what you will hear at different moments when you listen to the Legends album!!
Kuutana: Indeed, it certainly has been a very busy time! Let me explain a bit about why these last two albums have been released with a short time between them. As it turns out, during the time I was composing “Lost Dimensions” I had been going through a period of intense flow and imagination. Many tracks composed during that period had been left as partially finished projects, because there was a sense that there were “missing ingredients’ to complete the sound I was hoping for. Also, featured artists for the Lost Dimensions album had provided some really nice long tracks which took up a good part of the runtime for the album, so that left me with a lot of extra material that provided the starting point for the Legends album. So, it turns out that the material for Legends was really developed over a period of about a year’s time or so. That said, a few of my previous Sequential Dreams partners (who were busy with projects of their own while I was producing Legends) are now looking towards providing some contributions towards the next album! So expect another SD album in 2017! In between periods of work on SD material, I will also continue on to produce another ambient album under the “Luna Firma” project name, with ambient musician Eric “the” Taylor. I find that periods of work on these deeply rich and exploratory ambient soundscapes are an important part of fueling creativity and help “move the flow around” so that the next SD album develops a different character of its own, in part inspired by the sound explorations I will be developing for the next Luna Firma project. People who follow my work also know that I have a hand in several projects and so, in the end, I will let the Universe whisper in my ear as to what I will actually wind up producing in the future!
Wolf Red: Any closing words? Kuutana: I hope that listeners will enjoy this album. A lot of energy and attention has gone into producing it, and from talking with each of the artists involved in this album, I think we all feel that we’ve produced a good one for you to enjoy! Thank you for your interview, I enjoyed the time spent discussing this!
Tangerine Dream photograph (c) Wolf Red
Interview by Wolf Red, Modul303.com web radio Germany and worldwide
Sequential Dreams "Legends" Album artwork by Andreas Schwietzke
Interview by Wolf Red, Modul303.com web radio Germany and worldwide
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