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15 Questions to Steve Jolliffe

img  Tobias

Hi! How are you? Where are you?
I live in a very old house by the sea in cornwall, it is reffered to in the doomsday book so has been here in some form or another for over a thousand years. The house is completely isolated, at the end of a mile long track and surrounded by ancient woodland. I am not sure how I have managed to end up in such a handsome place, as all my life I have done nothing but write music and scribble a few paintings and have never had any support financialy, apart from being on and off the dole. My acountant (bless her heart) says I should write a book on how to live on nothing. I Live a frugal existance and the rules of my survival have become a way of life. Music of course expresses how I am, what I am striving to say and how I see and feel about life around me. It also gives me something to be occupied with. I have often tried to think of an alternative but have never found any lasting ideas. I believe in simplicity, a minimilist if you like, an improviser. The less that gets in the way the better.

What’s on your schedule right now?

At the moment I am using the computer to write orchestral music. Playing each part on software synths and printing out the parts as a score. It will be a finished work electronicaly and will also exist as a work that can be played by other musicians. I love the virtual world, its ability to indulge your imagination and the fun of being in control of a finished result. I also love the sound of a combination of wooden and metal instruments, making a noise that is an expression from your heart

You just released “Invitation”, a retrospective of your works. How did it feel looking back at these tracks after all these years?

Looking back at my work will always be like looking back at my life. None of it has been a consequence of financial gain, not that I havent hoped at times that it might be. The albums only exist because of a need to express my feelings. It is interesting revisiting those old keyboards, There were dominant ones on each album.  One of the most extrordinary examples is Journeys, created, pretty much entirely, with a pro one and a four track. The effects came from an old revox and the woodwind was recorded with a cheap old shure microphone. I never expected anybody to ever release it. Most of the albums were created with one keyboard, using only the internal sequencer and mastering directly from the keyboard outputs. This was inspired by my need to simplyfy and minimilise the hardware, leaving as much room for imagination as possible. That meant I had to squeeze every last drop out of those machines.

With different styles and atmospheres in your repertoire, you’ve never been easy to pin down - Too curious to try new things?
Art is a necessity for me, I learn about myself through my work as I do through any relationship that I become deeply involved with, it is a continual search for perfection, which keeps me ever tempted to learn more. My style if you like is a journey of discovery, like a biography in sound.

Even though many have characterised your music as “spacy”, “somber” and “pensive”, I had the feeling that there is always a positive message, a bright light that shines through the compositions. Do you feel the same?
There is an untamed and natural force around us which is beyond our control. It seems that everything is already here but nobodys ever heard it. Yes I am searching for that bright light just the same as the listener.  LISTENING IS AN ART FORM

What kind of challenges do you see for yourself, what kind of projects would you like to take on?
My challenge is to follow the path of the heart that alone sets my projects.

As there are some collaborative efforts in your discography – how does working with other musicians compare to working on your own?
Making music with others is the sharing of emotion. It is a rare event for me and generaly something separate from my personal work. I prefer to encourage the individual abilitys in other musicians and to enjoy the result of that.

What constitutes a good live performance in your opinion? What’s your approach to performing on stage?
Live performance is a tricky one for a composer, especialy when most of your work is created through improvisation and careful editing. I sometimes feel it would be better to sit with the audience and enjoy listening to a polished sound system. Playing along to preprogramed sequencers or watching people pretending to turn knobs to a backing track leaves me cold. To really capture the magic it needs to be a one off with no preconcieved crutches. I intend my next concert to be a completely live affair.

What’s your view on the music scene at present? Is there a crisis?

I have no interest in the music scene. When I listen to music I am looking to learn something specific and that could be anything from Bach to a completely obscure sound.

Some feel there is no need to record albums any more, that there is no such thing as genuinely “new” music. What do you tell them?
Creativity is a part of life, an expression of our thoughts and emotions. It is the individuals cry for freedom.  There is no end to it.

How do you see the relationship between sound and composition?
Composition is a way of organizing sound to use as a tool for self expression.

True or false: People need to be educated about music, before they can really appreciate it.

I prefer encouragement to education the latter can actualy prevent you from understanding music.  You can be the only teacher. It is a wonderful and solitary journey that can be genuinley shared and there within lies the reward.

You are given the position of artistic director of a festival. What would be on your program?
Festival/ from the latin/ to feast.  So plenty of food both physicaly and spiritualy.  I would look for music that people would not generaly be exposed to, which would rule out rock and pop. Anything from medieval to futureristic with visuals both electronic and physical. An experience to inspire people to search for themselves.

What’s your favourite CD at the moment?
Most of my time is spent making music but my ears will always pay special attention when Bach is presented to me.

We’ve done a whole interview without asking you a single question about Tangerine Dream. Does that make you happy?

I am grateful for the lack of questions on a band that really has very little to do with me.

Drake's Venture (1980)
Earth  (1981)                  
Journeys Out Of The Body (1982)        
Japanese Butterfly (1983)
Beyond The Dream (1984)
Voices (1985)
The Bruton Suite
New Age Emotions (1986)
The Minotaur (1987)
Doorways To The Soul (1988)
The Japanese Way (1988)
The Art Of Minimalism (1989)
Ethereal (1990)
Escape (1991)
Warrior (1992)
Maya (1993),
Alien (1994),
Zanzi (1995)
Temmenu (1996)
Omni (1997)
Deep Down Far (1999)
Space  (2003)
The Double Album (2004)

Steve Jolliffe

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