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Interview with Brendan Pollard

img  Tobias

Hi! How are you? Where are you?
I'm very well and still living in Letchworth Garden City in England.

What's on your schedule at the moment?
At the present moment I'm rebuilding the recording studio or in other words moving giant boxes of equipment around to try and make life slightly easier. I recently purchased another Modular System and I'm attempting to get 5 Modular Systems close enough together so they are more hands on.

usically I have a few plans. Firstly I am greatly looking forward to a collaboration with another high profile EM Band over the next few months which will culminate in a studio improvisation sometime in late March / early April. Secondly I keep toying with the idea of a filmed "in studio" performance. I have the contact for the filming side already sorted utilising 6 different cameras strategically placed in the studio.Already I have 2 interested muisicans who want to compose and perform for this experiment, my good friend Mat and my synth technician Adrian Dolente.

You mentioned the process which lead up to „Flux Echoes“ began with a writing block. How bad was it and how did you finally get back to composing?

Parts of "Flux Echoes" were already recorded prior to my gig at E-Live in Eindhoven in October 2006 but upon my return to the studio I found myself unable to compose any more material for the album. It was a complete block and I even got to the stage of basically sitting in front of the Mellotron and just looking around with no inspiration or enthusiasm to play, nothing was coming from me at all. Over the next 3 months nothing of any importance was recorded so I basically had to sit this one out until some inspiration was forthcoming. One evening at home an idea came into my head, the first time for ages, quickly this was written down and all of a sudden ideas were spewing forth. I would even wake up at night with an idea and thoughts - a Thankful recovery at long last. Future visits to the studio were much more inventive and fruitful although the technicalities of the music on "Flux Echoes" were going to take some time to complete. In fact the opener took another 5 months to complete because of the multilayered sequences. I also wanted this album to be sonically and technically correct so there days of experimenting with different old reverbs/ compressors basically seeing how sounds would sit in the mix.The road to recovery was now complete.

If I understood correctly, your previous album „Expansion“ was also finished in a rush of inspiration. Would you say you are a composer who needs to seize the creative moment quickly before it's gone?
Indeed those inspirational moments are very rare and some of the mellotron work on "Expansion" was done in one take. Alternatively I would have multiple ideas on certain parts then just record everything and listen back and either rerecord the preferred efforts or stick with certain original idea recordings.

More than any other album you've worked on before, „Flux Echoes“ is a team effort. Was it a conscious plan right from the start to incorporate as many external influences into your work as possible?
Well I constantly get asked to do collaborations or other musicians just ask or say they'd love to play on a track. The way the tracks were panning out in the studio gave my ideas for endings which would utilise Mat Roberts with his Hammond and Steinway Piano as I always planned for this piece to either start or finish with piano.The second track was crying out for guitar anyway, and Adrian Dolente is always up for playing and giving me suggestions as well as technical help. I was extremely pleased with all the results.

Shelley Walker had a hand in almost all of the pieces on the album. How did you establish contact with her? And: How important would you rate her overall influence on „Flux Echoes“?
I had been through 3 other guitarists and the results were not what I wanted. Very simply a friend of mine suggested his sister who was fascinated with my work and Shelley jumped at the chance. In fact she is a guitar teacher and plays in 2 Bands. I sent her the tracks that needed work and gave her examples of the sounds I was interested in, then she visited the studio for session. From the off I knew it would work straight away, she had ideas and different techniques which she applied to my highest expectation. It was working perfectly. The last track "Torque" is in fact a heavily effected electric guitar, a real experiment that somehow kind of worked. It was to be used in conjunction with another piece called "Aqueous Portal" that didn't make it onto the CD basically because I had stupidly over - run on the timings by almost 11 mintes. In fact "Radiant Transmission" is quite heavily edited timewise. Anyway getting back to the original question, yes indeed her influence was incredibly important to the finished production of "Flux Echoes". It was a great and fascinating experiment and experience for her also.

Your long-time partner Jerome is missing from the lineup and the last Rogue Element album dates way back. Does this mean the band has effectively come to an end?
Well I sincerely hope its not the end of Rogue Element. In fact all Jerome's equipment is still in the studio waiting for him. Unfortunately Jerome has an extremely busy schedule as he is a Finacial Director at one of the Major Record Companies and his time is very precious. The last time we actually got together was way back in Summer 2006 when we recorded a piece called "Mellowtronthoughts" for a compilation CD called "Analogy Vol 2 "on the Groove Label. Basically Jerome at one Mellotron and myself at the other just jamming until we came up with a piece. I hope in the very near future we will be back together recording because as far as I'm concerned Rogue Element still exists although simply sleeping at the present time.

More than ever before, the emphasis seems to be on sequencers. Was there a special reason for increasing their importance compared to the more atmospheric parts or did it evolve naturally?
Indeed there is a multitude of multilayered sequencing on the majority of "Flux Echoes". I love to explore the analogue beauty of Modular Synthsesis and there is no better way than firing multisequences at the old boxes of cables. Sometimes just to obtain a "thickness" of sound on each sequence there maybe 3-4 different footages of maybe 4, 8, a 16 and then the whole sound bedded in a deeper 32. There are many subtle sequences in a lot of the pieces which are particularly high in the sound register, and each sequence sound and set has been expored via different delays, tape echoes, and old vintage effect units to achieve the sound I was after. As I said earlier the opening piece, called "Flux Echoes" took almost 5 months to complete because of the sequencing complexities. The second piece is just a full on sequencer fest and thats the way I intended this so that the guitar and mellotron could sing gracefully over the top.

Talking about synthesizers and just as an aside: Steve Roach has of late displayed a noteable tendency to return to his old analog gear and sequencers, e.g. on „Proof Positive“. Have you had a chance to listen to that album? If so, I'd be interested in your opinion, also because you've mentioned you've enjoyed his music in the past.
Yep thats a great album and a welcome return for Steve with some sequencing. Some parts remind me of Stormwarning but still with that contemplative, meditative aspect underlying in each piece. It will be interesting to see if the analogue synths get further outings in the near future.Will we be seeing other artists return to the analogue domain?? Perhaps not, the advances in digital technology certainly make life easier for the Musician of today but as I have said on many occassions its not for me.

You've stated that important parts of „Expansion“ were actually live jams. How would you rate the relation between live and studio material on this occasion?

Yes, especially on the opening track of "Expansion" these were live jams between myself and my synth tech Adrain Dolente. Multiple takes were recorded and we both felt we had the best result with the released version - it was an interesting and fun experience that worked out very well. On Flux Echoes there is no such jamming really, I wanted a much more controlled production for this work. Of course jamming etc naturally took place and those events were recorded then replayed to see how things could be improved in sound, timing and effects and the general feel within the mix. I know of many musicians who prefer that live element of playing along etc but I wanted to feel 100% confident that what was recorded was literally my / our best efforts sonically and musically.

„Radiant Transmission“ is a 30-minute tour de force through all aspects of your work. Do you feel that, in a sense, this piece sums up what you are about musically?
Upon reflection I guess that statement is pretty accurate. The piece contains tons of sequencing, masses of sound effects, mellotron, more sound effects and more sequencing. Getting into the "groove" of recording anything on that piece was pretty easy as its such a rocking and exciting piece, full of momentum which certainly raises my enthusiasm sometimes. I'm extremely proud of the way certain parts sit in the mix especially the mellotron. The male choir chords near the ending were a real labour but evolved perfectly, and it was just fantastic to use the GC3 Brass mellotron tape frame a la Encore and Sorcerer.

With the exception of the closing track „Torque“, all tracks are all full of energy and surprises. Would you say there was a mood of „Anything is possible“ during the sessions to the album?
My aim was to give the listener different events and sections to work through, sometimes with surprises. The ending of the opener is a Mellotron fest of mixed violin and cello with mellotron sound effects, and you would normally expect me to open a piece in that way. Again the beautiful piano section ending on "Phosphor Skyline" a pleasant surprise for the listener I hope. The basic composite for any of my music is to have different events and sections which will portray on one hand darkness and the other light, kind of like night and day, encompassing different moods. I think recording this album over such a long period of time certainly awakened different and far reaching moods for me and I believe they are reflected perfectly in the music.

Are there certain aspects you still want to integrate into your style? Could you imagine working with a vocalist anytime soon, for example?
I have been asked before if I were to make perhaps an ambient album would it be as succesful, personally I don't think so. The good public who buy my material know me and my musical roots and what I try to achieve. The only answer I can perhaps give is that I am also contemplating moving away completely from the EM scene and maybe try an almost Prog release with drums, guitar, organ, mellotron and bass. I have the necessary interested players and the equipment - its certainly something for the future that I would like to investigate. As to whether this would involve a vocalist, I don't know, time will tell.

You've implicitely stated that „sales figures“do not entirely leave you cold. So, from this point of view, how satisfied are you with how „Flux Echoes“ has been doing?
Of course I'm extremely pleased with the sales of the album. My only concern is that my studio rent, rates and utility bills are covered and theres enough left over for the odd extra studio purchase. For the past 3 years this has been the case anyway. If future releases don't sell then so be it, at least I am satisfying my own personal whims.

Interview conducted by Tobias Fischer

With Rogue Element:
Premonition (2004)

Expansion (2005)
Flux Echoes (2007)

Brendan Pollard / Rogue Element

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