Going Under The Gas with Richard Bone

bone.jpg Always seeking new knowledge and forms of expression, Richard Bone has given listeners a diverse and widely-ranging body of work, from the electronic music of The Eternal Now to the more-ambient Spectral Ships to the exotic electro-jazz sounds of Coxa and Electropica, to name only a few. He often releases on his own Quirkworks label, as well as on Hypnos.

Bone's newest disc, Ether Dome, thematically captures the essence of consciousness slipping away under the anesthetizing effects of ether. We thank him for joining us and contributing his time, thoughts and photo.

AmbiEntrance: Tell us about your visit to the actual Ether Dome. At what point did you realize you had a theme?

Bone: I first heard the name while chatting with a friend who is a physician. The name just caught my ear and conjured up images of souls drifting in and out of consciousness. The actual Ether Dome in Boston has a high domed ceiling, is circular and has wooden bleachers on one side. The strangest thing is that it's really more of a theater than what we would think of as an "operating room". The reason being that many professionals came to view these procedures. A very surreal place indeed.

AmbiEntrance: What were your goals with Ether Dome and how did you achieve them?

Bone: My goal was to create a soundtrack for losing consciousness. That's why I recorded the disc between midnight and sunrise as I was approaching an altered state of awareness myself.

AmbiEntrance: They don't still use ether, do they?

Bone: I'm not a doctor but I play one on CD! No. I don't think it's used anymore.

AmbiEntrance: Does that mean the disc is also somehow nostalgic?

Bone: As nostalgic as tomorrow.

AmbiEntrance: We all know that Gilbert Abbott (The Induction of Gilbert Abbott) was the first etherized guinea pig, and that Letheon (The Letheon Men) was a temporarily-used brand name of ether (Oh all right... I had to do some web research first!). Do the other track titles fit in so historically?

Bone: I had those two titles after visiting the actual site. the rest I created by automatic writing. I envisioned the EtherDome in my mind's eye, then just started writing. In about 10 minutes I had written down about 20 phrases. These were then edited down into the titles you see.

AmbiEntrance: At the current Ether Dome exhibit, do they mention the strife (animosity, failure, insanity, suicide and throwing acid on a prostitute) that befell ether's "founders"? (I read this at http://www.anesthesia-nursing.com/ether.html.) Obviously, you kept your sounds on the "lighter" side, but do I detect some underlying darkness, and where might that spring from?

Bone: I'm not aware of the above references but perhaps you could do research for me in the future. The only "darkness" I intended was based on the apprehension that one/I felt as my reality slipped away.

AmbiEntrance: Ether Dome isn't your first "thematic" ambient excursion; How did the inspiration for The Spectral Ships come about? How did you research the subject?

Bone: I was reading an obscure poem somewhere and came across the phrase. I had already recorded one or two pieces for an, as yet, untitled work. I knew they had a slightly foreboding feel to them, so when I saw the phrase it just all came together. The rest of the disc was finished in about a week after that. I read the book, Folklore & The Sea, for additional inspiration and then researched the names of actual lost, ghost ships which became the track titles.

AmbiEntrance: Then there are your Tropical/Jazz/Lounge-style releases like Coxa and Electropica? Do they come from different part of your creativity?

Bone: You might say the come from my daylight mind. Lately I've been listening exclusively to jazz during the day, while the ambient works come from my twilight mind That is to say, the feeling one has when waking up out of a most vivid dream.

AmbiEntrance: Can you tell us what to expect with Ascensionism?

Bone: Only that it will be a departure from Coxa & Electropica. I have been profoundly moved by my recent Kabbalah studies. The mystical qualities of those writings combined with my recent travels to Greece & Egypt will be evident.

AmbiEntrance: How did you get into your Kabbalah studies, and how will this affect your music?

Bone: My study of kabbalah as well as other personal disciplines are simply the result of a thirst for knowledge. In the past I have felt that my life, and composition, were being guided. That somehow ideas were flowing from a greater "well." These studies have begun to allow me to consciously tap into this vast collective. Really, it's just advice, guidance and inspiration that's available to all of us all the time. It is just that only recently has humankind started to become aware of it, as traditional religions begin to fall away having served their great purpose. So, in fact, I have no idea where this will lead me musically but I am looking forward to the journey.

AmbiEntrance: Can you share some of those experiences abroad?

Bone: I simply do not know the words to convey the feeling that I experienced as I stood inside the King's Chamber within The Great Pyramid of Giza. But there was a strong sense of coming home. I expected the same kind of feeling at the Acropolis but instead there was a strong sense of "I've never seen this before." There was no connection. On the other hand, while standing inside the Coliseum in Rome just after sunrise I was startled by the vivid impressions I was receiving. Again, this is not any new age hokus pocus, we all have these things within us. We're just conditioned not to use them.

AmbiEntrance: You originally entered music via the theatre; can you describe those early days of transition?

Bone: I discovered that my acting abilities were questionable. Hamlet shouldn't be a comedy! But because I had always been playing with sound, experimental musics, I was asked to do sound design for several off Broadway productions. I had found my passion...sound.

AmbiEntrance: What were some of your early (theatre/sound) projects? What lessons did you learn from those early experiences?

Bone: Mostly experimental works although I did create sound for an especially twisted production of "Suddenly Last Summer." Mostly I came away with a sense of how to use nonmusical sounds to set a mood.

AmbiEntrance: Are you still involved in theatre works today? If so, how?

Bone: I will always have a deep love for theater. I would love to work on a new production if the right project should come along. A dear friend on the west coast, who is film maker, has recently made a few interesting proposals. All I'll say right here is that it involves animation.

AmbiEntrance: Is it scoring the next Pokemon cartoon/movie?

Bone: NO

AmbiEntrance: What was it like when you were touring and recording with Shox Lumania in the early 80s?

Bone: Those were the halcyon days of "new wave". Since we were the darlings of the NYC underground, they were amazing times. Again, it was a VERY theatrical band with as much emphasis on choreography and costume as music. The few recordings we made were never able to translate the stage show very well. Although it was a great experience, I found I was approaching burn out quickly. I had started recording 4 track demos in my house and one of these, "Digital Days", was picked up by Survival Records UK. So I left the band, and signed with Survival for 5 years where I released 2 LPs and countless singles in the mid 80's.

AmbiEntrance: Who were your "new wave" influences at that point?

Bone: Anything produced by Martin Hannet and on the Factory (UK) label.

AmbiEntrance: What was your own sound like?

Bone: Devo meets Ziggy Stardust as played by Bauhaus.

AmbiEntrance: Since then, you tend to work alone; is there any compelling reason for this?

Bone: I'm anti social.

AmbiEntrance: No, seriously...

Bone: BUG OFF!

AmbiEntrance: I'm also overviewing The Eternal Now this month; what can you tell us about that recording with its "zones" and "pages"?

Bone: The Eternal Now is actually my most personal recording. I was reemerging after a period of personal lows. The music was completely improvised and recorded by the light of only two candles. Again it was recorded in the twilight hours. The Millennium Pages on the insert was recorded at the base of a mountain in New Hampshire while I was accompanying a friend on a skiing weekend. I had sat down in the snow, leaning against a huge tree with a notebook in my lap. About an hour passed and when I looked down at the page, I had written something called The Millennium Pages. I have no memory of writing it, however.

AmbiEntrance: Does this "automatic writing" occur with your music as well? (Does this auto-pilot behavior ever happen while you're going about your daily business, or driving?)

Bone: Only in as much as I live intuitively. If I'm driving along and I get a sense of "turn right" I always honor it. Without fail I discover something new. A music store I didn't know, a work of art, a quaint little park or maybe an especially moving immigrant shopkeeper so grateful for what she/he has that I am moved. I try to honor every intuitive impulse.

AmbiEntrance: Speaking of the "Millennium", what do you think of all the ongoing hype?

Bone: Madison Ave is a well oiled machine! What's the worst that could happen? We spend a few hours by candlelight actually talking to one another? Could be a blessing in disguise.

AmbiEntrance: You've got a big fan in Marleen with her devotional Richard Bone website; is she someone you actually know, or just a fanatical stranger?

Bone: Both now. Her support, however, has meant more to me than she will ever know. Does art exist if there is no one to appreciate it? Perhaps, but her enthusiasm as well as the support of those who visit the site, encourage me to continue to create and grow.

AmbiEntrance: What's the scoop on Distillation? Is it out yet?

Bone: Distillation just arrived on my doorstep yesterday. It is available through Halcyon Recordings in Boston. The disc is a re-mastered compilation of my recordings before Electropica. The re-mastering has breathed new life into these works. I was astounded when I heard them. Most people find it odd, but I want no part of the mastering process. It has always been my philosophy to find people you trust and then let their individual talents shine through. This approach never fails. Distillation, by the way, also contains two unreleased ambient tracks.

AmbiEntrance: Besides Ascensionism, do you have any specific recording plans for the future?

Bone: Several projects on the drawing board, but for now I am Ascending.

AmbiEntrance: What advice can you offer to beginning musicians?

Bone: Honor the universe in which we live. Ask for the moon and expect to get it. By that I mean be true to yourself. Follow your heart's desire and never let anyone dissuade you.

AmbiEntrance: Many thanks for sharing your time and words, Richard. Anything you'd like to add?

Bone: 42 + 27 = 69

This interview posted November 27, 1999 | Interview Index

AmbiEntrance © 1999-97 by David J Opdyke (except CD cover art, rights retained by original owners).