If you caught Monday’s review you might be a little confused. While the album I reviewed was credited to Lysergic, here I am presenting you an interview with Empyrean. They are one in the same and more will be explained as you read. In my exploring the bandcamp universe I encounter a lot of music readily available from many talents of all walks of life. It’s a really amazing thing to think about as a music fan. You can seriously listen to things that might never have been heard before. In the case of Empyrean, he was so fresh into making his music that after putting a few tracks out he found himself reanalyzing his name he wanted to release music as. The internet truly is an open market for anyone to explore their passions, regardless of anything. Use it. Empyrean is. Listen and learn more.
Diggin around the internet you appear to be an unfamiliar name. Can you introduce yourself to the people?
Greets, yeah my name’s Al Plail, I’m a first year student at Salford uni doing audio tech, living in Manchester, standard stuff.
How old are you? Where did you grow up? Is this where you reside today?
18, grew up in the badlands that is Cheshire (possibly the most white middle class county in England), but the town I’m from is the armpit of Cheshire. I live in Manchester now for uni, but it’s always been my local city so it feels like home.
Your name is the acid in many drugs including LSD, are you a recreational fan? What prompted this name?
Yeah got it from the non-abbreviated name for LSD but it’s not why I chose it, I just quite liked the sound of it. I’ve since changed my name to Empyrean since I didn’t want the immediate association with the drug – Empyrean means the highest heaven and while I wish it had some sort of significant meaning I basically decided on it after trawling through thesaurus.com until I found a word I liked… coming up with names isn’t exactly my niche as you can see.
Have you ever released music under a different name or as part of a group?
Nah, nothing released to date, wouldn’t really count Black Coaches as a release I just wanted to get my music out there.
Were your parents musical? What did they play around your house growing up?
No actually they didn’t play any instruments or anything but they did play a broad range of stuff around the house while I was growing up. I’ve been introduced to a lot of 60s/70s psychedelic shit and some jazz through them but on the whole our music tastes are pretty dissimilar. Jazz is something I enjoy but I’ve barely scraped the surface of.. guess it comes with something that is so old as a genre. Its modern manifestations can be excellent though, been listening to the Portico Quartet a lot recently, then there’s the whole ‘nu jazz’ thing which adds a housey spin.. but now I’m divulging.
Has electronic influenced music always been where your ears went? Are you a collector of records?
No not at all, if I had to name my absolute favourite artist/producer I’d probably say Omar Rodriguez Lopez. He pretty much writes everything The Mars Volta do, and then there’s the slightly more leftfield solo project he has actualised through his quartet. The Mars Volta’s album ‘Frances the Mute’ is my most long-loved album after buying the CD when I was 12/13, I now know every minute detail of the album by heart despite its sheer intricacy.. but it’s the intricacy of his work that appeals so much to me about him as a producer. I tend to find this quality definitely prolongs the shelf life of music, when you can find some new little detail in each listen – it’s something I try to work towards. Like quite often the Mars Volta can just sound like a wall of sound on first listen, but on re-listening it starts to become familiar and you can start to appreciate the many layers of sound individually.
I’m also into a lot of new age ‘hippy bullshit’ if you like.. Stuff like Tame Impala and Portugal The Man. I’ve been through other phases earlier in life as well, some more short lived than others, but electronic music has definitely dominated my more recent years.
And no I don’t collect records as much as I wish I did, perhaps one day.
What are you making your tunes with?
Nothing fancy at all. Ableton rewired with Reason, ultimate minimal setup of laptop and midi keyboard. Although living with musicians there are a few things around the house that I can borrow from time to time – been working in some guitar using a DI box recently. I’m also intending to use the studios in Uni to record some stuff when I get round to it – vocals, and sax since one of my housemates owns one. The equipment at Uni is good to take advantage of while I still can really, I rented out a mic to do some field recordings recently since I use them quite a lot to add texture – it feels like you’re actually doing something more towards writing music if you record it yourself rather than just finding a sample on freesound or whatever.
What’s a typical day in your life look like?
Go to uni in the week, go out at the weekend, get stoned in between…
Do you pay attention to modern music? What’s in your ears at this moment in time?
Yeah it’s definitely where I pay most of my attention really. Sounds and genres are constantly evolving so you can never get bored. At the moment I’m really interested to see what a new Danish record label ‘Farver’ has in store. They’ve just had their first release and I’ve recently been filled in on the back catalogues of the artists involved and there is a lot of talent there, so that’s what’s in my ears quite a lot currently. I’ve also been listening to a lot of Shackleton ever since I saw his live set at Bloc Weekend a couple of weeks ago after taking some acid, it was without a doubt the best, most awe-inspiring hour of my life, I’ve never been genuinely speechless before and you could tell the feeling was mutual for all involved. The guy is a genius.
Do you play any instruments?
I learnt keyboard up to grade 3 when I was in primary school, and taught myself to play guitar to a certain standard but I wouldn’t really consider my self to play any instruments since I never practice or anything. I’m not sure why but I just never got into playing guitar particularly, though learning keyboard when I was about 8 did give me fundamental grounding in music theory so I’m grateful for that. While I’ve never taken up an instrument properly I’d say I’ve always been heavily involved in music, even if it’s just listening and appreciating. I think producing and playing an instrument are fairly removed from each other, a lot of artists I like have said they have no technical musical backing whatsoever, they just try things until it sounds good. In a way it seems not having a musical background would encourage originality as it would induce less conventional tecniques (certainly the case with Shackleton), but that said I definitely think some sort of natural musical ability needs to be there.
Are their musicians out you view as peers in style?
Well I have been invited to a sort of collective of producers as curated by a guy that is really passionate about his music, so I guess I would say these – the Farver lot being a part of this. But having peers in style is something I try and get away from really in the quest for originality. That doesn’t mean to say I don’t have influences though, most of the things I listen to influence/inspire me in some way, but obviously these influences are realised through your own ideas and techniques. I imagine I’d definitely be grouped in with others in terms of style but it’s just not a conscious thought when making music.
Are their cats around your home that you collaborate with or play tunes for, is their a “scene” you are a part of?
A couple of my housemates also produce and are active musically so it’s a good environment to be in for writing music. I think Manchester has a really good music scene, lots of good nights and talents emerging. I wouldn’t consider myself a part of it now, more an observer, but it’s something I definitely would like to get involved in in the future when I’m more confident as a DJ.
Do you play out live? DJ? Live production?
Not at the moment. Need to invest in some equipment and get practicing as I wouldn’t want to rely too heavily on my laptop to DJ.
How long was “Black Coaches” in the works?
I wrote the songs during last semester, so between October and December. But they were never intended for a release, I just wanted to get some tracks out there so bundled them together as an EP and uploaded them to bandcamp.
Are you handling the release all on your own?
Yeah but it was just a means of getting noticed really, and the reception it’s received really pleasantly surprised me. I’ve since been in talks with a label and am currently writing an album for them.
What’s your goal for 2011?
Finish this album and be happy with it.