Interviews with A Produce

Deep Listenings (Italy), 1995

Wind and Wire Magazine, 1997




Originally appeared in Deep Listenings (Italy), 1995


DL:

Where does your name come from and what does it mean?


A Produce:

The story of how "A Produce" got his name is surprisingly uninteresting. Nevertheless, here it is: In 1977, I was involved in an "art damage" band called The Blank Ensemble. The vocalist of the band called himself R Dash. Before the band formed, though, he and I were hanging around a lot, and he used to perform for me, a capella. I would suggest ideas for him to try. At some point, we suggested me producing him, after which he dubbed me "A Producer." It was later shortened to "A Produce" when the band got going. The name has stuck over the years. There were other strange names in The Blank Ensemble: Pierre Lambow, I.D. Morgan, Saucer Teaz, Jam Posit, Naomi Crayola. It was simply a device to trick our minds out of being who we were in everyday reality. Even The Beatles utilized the idea when they did Sgt. Pepper.


DL:

Please explain the philosophy and the aesthetics behind your music.


A Produce:

To me, trance music is a hypnotic thing, and a seductive one. It gradually draws the listener into a light stage of hypnosis. It lifts the person out of his or her everyday routine and "trance ports" them into an altered state in which one's thoughts can travel. To me, trance music is an abstract construct rather than actual instruments. It can be rock guitars, it can be beat drums; it can be synths, it can be factory machines, it can be pretty, it can be dissonant, it can be gentle, it can be aggressive, it can even be environmental. Oftentimes, it can be more than one of these things at the same time. This is deep music that leaves much for the listener to come back to, again and again.

In my version of trance music, I try for great variety, mixing up all these elements. Many of my pieces have different moods and settings -- atmospheric, melodic, percussive, ethnic. I try not to repeat myself unlike so many others doing this kind of music. I like each piece to be unique unto itself.


DL:

What is the perception of your music in the USA and in Europe?


A Produce:

I've gotten basically favorable reviews from both the U.S. and Europe. Sometimes it surprises me what people get from the music, but that's true in any art form. The creator is so close to the work, making sure it comes out okay technically that it's almost impossible to listen to it objectively while working on it or even afterwards. I try to do that, though. When deciding whether or not a finished piece "works," I try to hear it as if I were listening to someone else, and whether or not I respond to it.


DL:

The readers of Deep Listenings already are very familiar with your past, but tell me in your own words about the evolution of your music from the beginnings to now.


A Produce:

With regard to what I'm doing now, my musical evolution started with The Blank Ensemble. This was basically a rock-oriented project with artistic trappings. All the bands we were trying to emulate -- Velvet Underground, Can, Faust, Television -- were coming from a similar place. I tried to bring those aesthetics to the next band which I formed and produced -- Afterimage. Afterimage ended in '82, and coincided with my waning interest in doing a rock-oriented band. At that point, I was considering other forms of expression. There was a lot of so-called "underground"/experimental music happening in Los Angeles at the time. I found I was listening to less rock music and more trance-related artists such as Eno, Steve Reich, and Terry Riley. At about that time, I heard the Stillife EP, "Rubrica," and based on that, I and my girlfriend at the time, An Bene, decided to form a cassette label called Trance Port which came from a sci-fi novel called Radix. At the time, I believed a trance music scene was forming in L.A. That wasn't quite the case, but there was enough interesting stuff around to release a cassette entitled L.A. Mantra.

After the first phase of Trance Port (the series of cassettes released in '83-84), I began working on my first solo album, The Clearing, which eventually came out in 1988. A few of the artists who were involved in the two Mantra anthologies were on it. In 1989, Pierre Lambow and I began collaborating on a series of pieces that we dubbed "cyber age," which was our version of New Age. In the next year or so, we managed to record nearly two albums' worth of material, some of which has appeared on my albums. It was a very prolific period. Though I had used keyboards earlier, I didn't really start working with them exclusively until '89 with Pierre.

Since then, I have continued to work alone and with others -- Chas Smith, Ruben Garcia, and Scott Fraser to name a few.


DL:

You have worked with some obscure and great artists: Chas Smith, Pierre Lambow, Ruben Garcia. What can you tell me about them?


A Produce:

As I just mentioned, I have known Chas, Ruben, Pierre and Scott for years. They're all very talented individuals, and have done music of their own. Ruben has worked with Harold Budd. Chas has worked with Stillife. Unfortunately, Pierre is no longer around... he passed away in 1992, but he was a very talented fellow.


DL:

What was the experimental scene like in California?


A Produce:

There's always been a great experimental fringe in California, both in Northern and Southern California. Steve Roach is originally from San Diego, and Robert Rich is from Northern California. Harold Budd grew up in L.A. Despite the entertainment industry, there's still a lot of experimental activity going on, which the music biz sometimes takes note of, and if they like it, they'll buff out the rough edges and turn it into something safe and "commercial."


DL:

Do you think that the ambient theories of Brian Eno are still valid for today's music?


A Produce:

Eno's ambient ideas and "oblique strategies" are still valid today. Despite comparisons to Eno's work, I haven't been too impressed lately with what he's done. Aside from a couple tracks, I thought The Shutov Assembly was simply Eno doing Eno, which happens a lot with performers who have had a long career. Neil Young is another one that comes to mind.


DL:

You have passed from art rock to an almost subliminal ambient music. Is this an evolution that you wanted to happen?


A Produce:

Regarding my evolution from so-called "art rock" (a term I hate -- ELP and Yes were "art rock"), to my present meditative trance music, it's never been a conscious thing. I burned out on doing rock bands in the early 80's, and felt it was time for something else. I'm sure I didn't come up with the term "trance music." But that was the best phrase I could find to describe what it was I wanted to do next. Unfortunately, that term as well as "ambient" have been hijacked by the '90's dance crowd, and the terms don't mean what they used to. I'm even hesitant to use those terms anymore to describe what I do!


DL:

Is your music pure artistic expression or are you trying to communicate something from inside you? Have you ever had strange experiences in a spiritual sense?


A Produce:

My music is a combination of both an artistic expression as well as a need to express something from inside. Because "trance" and "ambient" have been taken over by the dance franchise, these days I tend to describe what I do as "deep listening music," a term I'm sure you know the origin of! It's very hard for me to describe what I do since as I said earlier, it's more an abstract construct than actual physical instruments. My music draws from many sources as well as life experiences.


DL:

Are you influenced by the landscape?


A Produce:

I like being near to so many environments -- the ocean, the desert, the mountains. These things influence me as much as the urban side of Los Angeles. Interestingly enough, my next album will be called Inscape and Landscape, contrasting one's own interior landscape with the landscape one is surrounded by on a daily basis.


DL:

Whenever one of your recordings comes out, it is eagerly awaited here in Italy, and many readers ask me for news. How would you explain this fanatical following?


A Produce:

I have a small but loyal following of people who enjoy the music I do. I would hesitate to call it a fanatical following. I continue to release my albums myself in limited "art editions" which usually number 1500-1600. Perhaps someday another label will be interested in licensing some of them. They really are limited runs too. The Clearing and Reflect Like a Mirror are now out of print, and I have no plans to reissue them at the present time -- which is why I brought some of the tracks back on White Sands.


DL:

What is your experience of L.A.? It is a very hard place for an artist like you who produces a certain type of music. Do you think you might move to another place some day?


A Produce:

Living in any big city, Los Angeles included, is oftentimes hard on the psyche. Oddly enough, I take a sort of perverse pleasure doing this music here, in the so-called "belly of the best," the '90's "Babylon." I derive a lot of energy from Los Angeles. It's a great place to make connections, to connect with other like-thinking individuals. I don't know if I'll be here forever.


DL:

What made you decide to release White Sands?


A Produce:

As I indicated earlier, releasing White Sands was a way for me to tie up a lot of loose ends. I don't think The Clearing will ever be issued on CD. Likewise, Reflect is now out of print. In addition, there was a backlog of pieces that Pierre and I did as In The Distance that I hadn't found a place for but I thought deserved to eventually be issued. Also I felt that a lot of people who were interested in my music had discovered it later, and had missed out on some of the previous music, so I thought an anthology like this would give those as well as future listeners a better idea of the kind of music I do. I see it as an end to a phase of my musical development.


DL:

What are the difficulties that accompany an independent label? How do you manage to keep Trance Port alive?


A Produce:

There are advantages and disadvantages to running an independent label. Originally, Trance Port was intended for other artists. For now, it is the vehicle I use to release my own music. The advantage of being an indie label is being able to make all the decisions and not have them made by someone else. My projects are not inexpensive -- if I wanted to, I could manufacture them much cheaper by going to the plastic jewel case. But then they would lose some of their uniqueness, and look like everybody else. That's why I continue to prefer a more unique look for the limited editions.


DL:

Which artists would you like to work with?


A Produce:

I'm hesitant to name any artists that I'd like to work with. On the other hand, there are many I admire and am influenced by. However, that doesn't necessarily mean that working with those people would make for a good collaboration. I admire Steve Roach's, Robert Rich's, Jeff Greinke's and others' work. I'm not sure that what I do would blend well with what they do. It might be interesting to find out someday.


DL:

Please list your equipment and your favorite instruments.


A Produce:

The equipment I'm currently using is mainly Korg synths: an 01/W, a T3 and a Wavestation. I also have a Kurzweil K2000. Plus plenty of outboard gear. There are many synths on the market that all do the same thing. I try to choose equipment that has unique capabilities. Right now, I'm trying to expand my sonic palette by utilizing new sounds, different from waht I've previously used. I recently bought a Japanese shakahachi flute because it's one of the sounds I love. Recently, Scott Fraser and I did some pieces which utilized some hot electric guitar, played by Scott. Mostly, though, I'm drawn to the unique sound of world instruments such as various world percussions, tablas, gamalan and that sort of thing.


DL:

What is your most successful recording?


A Produce:

"Succesful" is such an arbitrary word.... in terms of personal success, I think Land of a Thousand Trances reaches farther than Reflect did. And, I'm hoping on the next project to take the ideas I did on 1000 Trances even further, and to delve into some new areas while maintaining a thread. I try to avoid repeating myself.


DL:

What are your all time favorite recordings and the artists who have influenced you?


A Produce:

My all-time favorite recordings which have inspired me would have to include Steve Roach's Structures from Silence, Steve Reich's Music for 18 Musicians, Terry Riley's Rainbow in Curved Air and Shri Camel, Robert Rich's Rain Forest, Eno's On Land, Michael Brook's Hybrid, Harold Budd's Plateaux of Mirrors, Gabrille Roth's Bones, and of course the Deep Listening Band's first album. There's probably a bunch more that I've left out, but these are the classics that have withstood the test of time for me. They aren't dated -- they're timeless.


DL:

What are your current projects?


A Produce:

As I indicated earlier, my next project will be Inscape and Landscape, on which I hope to break new sonic ground. It won't be out until mid '96, but I already have a few tracks finished.


DL:

What is your greatest wish, both artistic and personal?


A Produce:

I'd like to see "ambient" and "trance" return to their original meaning, though I don't know if that will happen. What's being called "ambient music" now is really the disco of the '90s... Basically, I'd hope that artists like myself, Roach, Rich, Greinke, Alio Die and all the others would benefit from the superficial ambient/trance music going around today. That is, I'd hope that those who are drawn to the current "ambient" music might discover, perhaps accidentally, that there's a deeper layer there of other artists who take what they do very seriously. Robert Rich calls it "the heavier territory." Perhaps some dance ambient fans will discover it.


DL:

Anything further you'd like to add?


A Produce:

The one thing I find striking about this type of music is that it truly is global. Of course, so is rock, jazz, folk, classical and all that, but this "deep listening music" is a completely new genre that has only evolved over the last 20 years or so, depending on when one starts counting. Terry Riley's Rainbow in Curved Air came out in 1968. However, this new breed -- Roach, Rich, etc. has emerged in just the last ten years or so. There isn't a really big audience for it, but the interesting thing is there are people all over the world that respond to it. This leads me to believe that it's not just a fad or a trend. Beyond New Age, there is a healing element to this kind of music -- personal, spiritual healing which, whether the world knows or not, is needed now more than ever in our modern society.




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