Hi Scott, thanks for taking the time to answer these questions. It’s nice to (virtually) meet you. How are you? How’s music and life treating you?
Hey. I’m well thanks. Honestly, music life is chaotic, at times super fun and at times super depressing.
Is there anything in particular that made you want to become a musician? Was there a defining moment for you?
Musician is a funny word. Depending on who you talk to it can be a job or a hobby. As a hobby, I wanted to make music from the age of 12 or 13. I played in rock bands and it was pure fun. I studied music in University and knew I would be connected to it somehow as a job but never thought I would ever survive off my own esoteric work. Still doubting it can work after years of doing it.
Why did you choose ambient music? Or did ambient music choose you?
It was the right combo of things for me. I was into what you might loosely call prog rock or even post rock but was studying composition and computer music in school. Worlds just came together for me and it made sense to me creatively. I’ve never considered what I do exclusively ambient but I’ve certainly had a foot in that domain for some time.
How do you start the process of creating a piece of music? Do you improvise, and if so, what kind of role does improvisation have in your music?
I think creativity is improvisation. I think they are essentially one and the same. Even if you use a systematic approach you are improvising the system by conceiving it to some extent. But in a strict musical sense, yes, improvisation is important and central to certain stages of my process. Generally speaking, I have a sound designer mentality and often start by creating a library of sounds, then organize them musically and experiment with combinations.
Music is of course open to interpretation and by its very nature is subjective, but saying that, I always personally feel the presence of a cool, fluid and sometimes icy atmosphere in your music as Loscil. It’s very watery. Endless Falls comes to mind, and, significantly, that album starts and ends with the sound of the rain. Rain is such a natural phenomenon, yet the computer itself is not really natural or of the world. What attracted you to the element and its sound, and why does it play such an important part in your music?
Rain in particular is really interesting for its stochastic quality. It is many small sounds coming together to form one larger sound. When I was in school I studied a lot of granular synthesis which essentially synthesizes this same idea – breaking up a sound into multiple grains and distributing them into a cloud. I love these natural models and love it when computer and machine music is designed after nature. Rain is very nostalgic for me also – as it is for many i’m sure – but I live in a rainforest in the Pacific North West so we get a lot of rain and it sort of embeds itself into your psyche.
Does the natural world and your native country of Canada impact on and affect your music in any way?
Yes, definitely. I struggle to escape its influence sometimes. The negatives influence me too, like the human impact on the landscape, industry, etc. I find it all achingly attractive in some way. Like an Edward Burtynsky photograph.
Do you think your sound has changed or developed over the years?
Yes, I do…
Loscil has always been a “project” for me so I enjoy keeping it within a certain set of confines and seeing what happens when those confines are pushed or exposed.
So the changes may seem subtle at times – more rhythm, less rhythm, live instruments of different kinds, more composed vs improvised, adding voice or words, etc. I always try to take the music somewhere different without breaking what the project was originally intended to be.
Do you have any thoughts or philosophies on ambient music you’d like to share?
I’ve always struggled with the word ambient. All genre titles are tough really. I think what generally gets called ambient is music that doesn’t fit elsewhere. There such a huge variety of people doing vastly different things that get clumped together into this ambient thing. There are times I truly want to make ambient music – i.e. music that sits in the background and hovers without attracting too much attention, but there are times I want to create music that forces you to pay attention. Listen to these notes or this melodic line! I know we need these classifications, and I use them when I’m talking to people about my music, but part of me wishes we could drop them.
Would you like to experiment more outside of the computer?
Yes. I’d love to do more instrumental writing and experimentation with acoustic instruments. It’s long been an interest of mine.
Your European tour is only a week away now. How are you feeling? Do you like touring?
I’m riddled with anxiety to be honest. So much to prepare and get ready for not to mention my set which I’m not yet happy with. I like touring sometimes but I hate the lead up.
How do you approach a live performance, mentally and musically?
Lately, integrated video has become central to my work. I’ve now structured my set so that I can mix between freely improvising layers and mixing in predesigned or computer driven layers. My whole career I’ve felt on the cusp of achieving a live set up that feels right. I feel the closest to that that I’ve ever been but it’s never perfect. Electronic music is a tough one to present in this way. You need the perfect venue with the right sound and a nice size screen and… anyway, I try to just be prepared and hope it sound good.
On recording music versus performing live… how does your sound and your technique differ during a live performance as opposed to recording music in the studio?
They are pretty close actually. Obviously the volume is different. Having a big sound system gives a chance to see where the sounds can go and physically move the air a bit. With the bass in particular this can be really nice. When you’re working all day on the same piece, you need to be working at a lower level.
What’s on the horizon? Any other projects or happenings you’d like to talk about?
Kranky has issued Plume on vinyl which I will have on tour. I’m also releasing the second in a series of 7”s of music derived from sine waves – Sine Studies 2 – on my friend’s label. I’m finishing up a film score and I have a new, experimental project that should get announced very soon.
Thanks Scott! Have a great tour…
Pre-order the new album ‘Sea Island’ here