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Monday, April 4, 2011

Access to Arasaka Interview

Speaking on cyberpunk with Access to Arasaka. I think he is nearly a household name in the industrial / idm scene at this point, though if you've been under a rock for the last couple of years, do yourself a favor and check this guy out. A lot of people are calling him the next Gridlock, which kind of says it all.

more info: www.accesstoarasaka.com

Firstly, can you give us a brief history of your project?

My entire foray into electronic music started about 12 or 13 years ago. It was brought on by a very gorgeous night at the end of winter, the coming spring in the air. I had Aphex Twin's "IZ-US" on repeat. And I decided right then and there that electronic music was my future. It took me until about 2004 to actually attempt IDM, and about another year after that to make it available on the internet. From there, things just seemed to snowball, and I haven't looked back since.

What inspires you to write music? What draws you to the medium of IDM/ambient music?

A lot of my inspiration comes from art. Be it writing, photography, paintings, other music, etc. As everyone knows, my driving force is everything cyberpunk. But a lot of my music is created based on personal feelings, simply filtered through the cyberpunk genre in some weird way. I also find a lot of inspiration in nature: stargazing, thunderstorms, etc.

I think my main attraction to IDM and ambient is the fact that they seem multifaceted. They can be used as soundtracks, as personal scores, as driving music, anything at all. It seems that every listener gets a different feeling and a different context or story from each song. I love music as ambiguous as that. It's like putting abstract paintings into sound. And, to be honest, the sheer chaotic beauty and math-based precision (or destruction) of IDM very much appeals to my geek nature.

Maybe I’m not in the know, but I almost feel like the cyberpunk culture (idea) has lost steam recently. There were a lot of great 80-90s anime, books, and games, but I don’t hear about it all that much anymore. You’d think with constantly aggrandizing technology, cyberpunk would be more relevant than ever in today’s society; we’ve nearly ascertained many of the technologies Gibson et al. wrote about, and thusly should be able to envision new developments well beyond what was fantasized about in Neuromancer (there is surely no shortage of moral and ethical quandaries on the horizon). I guess it could be argued that we already live in a cyberpunk dystopia. Not sure if there is a question in there; what I’m getting at is: what are your thoughts on the current state of the culture.

I think we are definitely living in that world now, or at least some MacBook variation of it. New technology every day, new advancements, new atrocities. However, we are lacking the dirty run-down cityscapes and the groups of hackers and mercenaries running around like kids on Halloween, it seems. Almost as though we're attempting to head towards a future more befitting Minority Report. Despite the wars and riots and everything, technology and the world at large has lost the grime that was inherent in (and essential to) that atmosphere. 

A lot of people continue to say that cyberpunk is dead. It has definitely waned as far as being out front in any sort of media outlet, and perhaps it's because we are so close to such a world. Though in my time with the AtA project, I've met a great number of people who still get the same feeling they did in their youth when reading the first sentence of Neuromancer. And authors continue to plunge us into that world, despite the label of post-cyberpunk that seems to be grafted to anything with advanced technology inherent within. Though the times change and the world moves on, true subcultures remain, if only in the hearts of those who truly cared. The basis of cyberpunk, much like the basis of punk itself, will never die in my eyes.

Recommend your favorite cyberpunk reading/viewing/games/etc ?

I would have to say that Richard K. Morgan is very high up on my list of authors right now. He blends cyberpunk with traditional hard sci-fi, as well noir and many other genres. His Takeshi Kovacs series is actually a main influence for one of the albums I plan to create. Also, the Ian Cormac series from Neal Asher. I can't even begin to tell you how much I love that world.

For viewing, I'm recommending One Point 0. Or Paranoia 1.0, as the DVD title says. It's not for everyone, by far. But if you're interested in viewing a really nice moody flick that stretched their low budget to the absolute extreme, and don't mind a bit of weirdness, this one's for you.

Your track for the compilation is “Seraphic Variate” Can you give us a bit on insight on what inspired this track, how you composed it, etc.?

This track was actually a remix of a song I made a long time ago, called Seraphic8x. It was originally a bit more minimal and empty, made via inspiration from the game Deus Ex. The idea of a city on the verge of destruction, abandoned streets, etc. This version of it was born from the image of riding the Boston subway; watching the overhead lights cycle down to zero, passengers boarding and leaving, imagining their lives. I have never quite felt a peace like that since. My brain has currently been muddled with questions of the future, questions of love, questions of the world at large. This was an attempt to capture the chaos of my thoughts while also adding in the serenity of riding the T, as though it would somehow clear my head of all these things.

Tell us a bit about your studio. What gear are you using, what is your favorite gear, etc.?

As of right now, my studio consists of an Alesis Ion, a Korg X50, a Microkorg, a Korg Electribe EA-1, a Novation Xiosynth, a Sirkut SNB, and a Roland Gaia SH-01 (to replace the SH-101 that recently shat the bed). For recording, I use a MOTU Traveler as a mixer, and an M-Audio 2626 as a recording interface. I can't rightly say that I have a favorite synth, as each one serves its purpose. I try to use them all equally, but it often depends on the style I'm going for.  In the end, they are all my favorites. I wouldn't sell a single one of these for any reason. They've become my best friends, as sorry as that sounds.

Your newest album, “void();”, is your most complex work to date. It reminds me a bit of the evolution of Autechre, and how as they got older their stuff got continuously more cerebral, nonlinear and mindbending. Was this a conscious choice on this album, a progression of your style; e.g. is this your ‘Confield’?

Thank you! I truly wish I had a 'Confeld' or any other Autechre album, actually. Alas, I doubt I will ever make anything of that significance. It was a conscious choice to make this album more frenetic, as to mimic the whole idea of programming, hacking, etc. I still wanted to maintain some of the sounds that people are used to, though. I didn't want to make something completely inaccessible.

I really liked the concept of your older works, such as METAX, where each track title was a location or backdrop. Any hints as to what the titles on “void();” mean? Beyond, perhaps, that they appear to be programming language?

METAX was made from memories. Each title was a location or a thing from a specific memory, mostly from time spent in Boston. With "void();", the titles were chosen randomly. But each song depicts an idea, be it a moment in Gibson's "Burning Chrome" or something I read about phone phreaks, whatever. I thought of making the titles actually coincide with these moments, but I liked the idea of everything being ambiguous.

Is Zion the second layer of The Matrix?

You know what... It just might be. That always bothered me. First off, how did they build Zion? The idea seemed plausible until they showed it in the second movie. It's just too complex and huge. And the whole idea of a peace between humans and machines... All those still plugged in couldn't possibly fit in Zion without them drastically increasing food production, and the surface is apparently too cold to live on, blah blah blah. Not to mention that The One or otherwise, Neo shouldn't have been able to stop the sentinels the way he did in the real world. But I digress. The Animatrix showed that we deserve to be slaughtered after the way we treated the machines. Especially Neo who turned into a sort of bastardly Luke Skywalker circa Return of the Jedi that completely forgot how to smile. Besides, The Matrix made it so that the Neuromancer movie is still in limbo, so I shake my fist at it. Although Carrie Ann Moss in latex almost makes it worth it... By the way, did she get plastic surgery recently?

What can we expect in the future from Access to Arasaka?

More of the same. Always more of the same. :) I don't know if I am evolving at all, and I often fear that I'm not. But you can expect several new releases this year. There is at least one full-length album in the works (hopefully to be released with Tympanik still), as well as a finished EP that will be released for free via Tympanik in the comings months. Lots of compilation tracks, collaborations, and remixes en route. I'm also working on an audio/visual collaboration with Timothée Mathelin from futurorg.com - I'm very excited about that one, mainly because his artwork is a huge inspiration for my music. But any further details on it are secret, as we want it to be a fairly nice surprise.

1 comment:

Quarck said...

Great interview, thanks!