- Salvador, Brazil
As I am sitting here on the beach in Praira do Flamingo trying to ﬁgure out what to write as liner notes, I only can
think about what keeps me coming back here to Salvador. It's all about the beach and carefree live style on the one
side and the massive heavy percussion beats on the other and I can't get enough of it!
It all began about a decade ago. I had started to record more and more ambient atmospheric experimental
soundscapes for various ﬁlm commissions and was searching to ﬁnd the push and the rhythms that would set the
whole thing on ﬁre. I didn't have to search for long, because I found it in Bahia, back in 2003, when I ﬁrst came here
(a story told in the documentary "Thomas Simon Walkabout").
- Questions And Answers
I have been performing live atmospheric sound collages, by now, regularly for the last three years, back in New York
City and after almost every show, I was asked similar questions:
How do I create the layers; where are the beats from; how did I developed my style; etc.
Well, during the performances I am not big on talking to the audience a lot, since I am playing my set pretty much as
one long song, moving seamlessly from tune to tune. So, here with this album, I decided to heed to the requests and tell you guys a little bit about my process.
In some reviews I was called an "one man orchestra".
It took quite a while to come to that point. I had been performing and touring with a full band for years in the late
1990's and early 2000's. Together with my lovely, awesome wife Jillie (on vocals), we must have covered close to
100 000 miles in a van criss-crossing the USA, Canada, Europe and beyond.
I loved the road and rocking out with the guys, but most of the time, it came to a point when it was only about the
money with my musicians and not at all about the music.
Let me be clear, everybody ever going on the road with us, came back to a pay check, exactly the amount of what
we agreed upon before embarking, no matter what happened out there. But still, the guys egos spun out of control,
which left me to conclude that the liabilities I was facing with some musicians on the road were too unpredictable
and too debilitating (I could recite a lot of stories now, but leave that for later, to my unauthorized biography). So,
after a while, I knew I had to reinvent myself and that I needed to step away from the band thing for a moment in
order to see things clearer overall (cut to a wide shot, me thinking on the beach...).
- Next Move
That said, I was looking for alternative ways to produce my sound.
Experience and the self assurance I gained after years of performing and creating music, as well as new
technologies, started me on the current experimental path. Wait!
Let's rewind this for a second, let's go back to one speciﬁc incident that occurred exactly twelve years ago.
- Back Story
Jillie and I just had ﬁnished a run of shows (with Love Alien) in Europe and we were scheduled to culminate the tour
with a major TV interview and concert in Tel Aviv, Israel. At the time we were working with an Israeli rhythm section,
who connected us with the local promoters. So we got there and had a week break before the events. Our
entourage and us decided to head down to the Sinai in Egypt and chill out at a Bedouin Camp on a beach close to
Nueba. This was totally my kind of place, situated exactly on the meeting of the desert, mountains and the Red Sea.
One night we were hanging out with some of the locals and this guy was playing a self fabricated instrument. A piece
of wood with some wires on it. He was strumming it, playing mostly harmonic sounds and singing traditional songs.
It sounded so cool, so heartfelt! This man was not a professional musician, not educated, whatsoever. He was not looking for a record deal, or was in competition with the other guys playing music on the beach. He was simply acting from his gut and he was feeling it! That's when I realized, this is it! I want to travel the world, research musical hotspots, go there and look for people, just like him, on the beaches, streets, squares, temples, wherever I can ﬁnd them, jamming out. I want to make friends with them, have a laugh, sit down and play music with them or record them as they are on the ﬂy. Have
everything be broken down to just the essence of it all. To reach out, feel the music, fuse the sounds and create my
own global network.
I never thought of the music business as being in a competition, but in New York City, it sure is being approached
that way. I don't play that game, it's boring. See, for me it's all about the process of creating. I'm the happiest when in the ﬁeld, hunting for sounds and visions and then bringing it back to my studio and mixing it up!
So, that was it. That starry night, in the desert, a light bulb went off in my head and started me on a mission.
Now, twelve years later, I have been around the block a few times.
I have been recording and ﬁlming in the streets of Salvador, Brazil; on temple grounds in Ubud, Bali, Indonesia; in
Assi Ghat, Varanasi, India; in the bush of Nothern Austalia; in the Middle East, Europe and beyond. Then, back to
Brazil, chasing animal and nature sounds in the Amazon and also in the rain forests of Central America.
I simply cannot stop this Walkabout. It will be an ongoing process for the rest of my live.
- Vortex in the Studio and Live;
Over one year in the making, this album is a continuation of my catalogue of atmospheric, experimental records.
Starting with "Soundscape", then "Walkabout", going even more experimental with "Secret Winds Of Sound" and
"Monção" (all released on endorphin records, Jille's and my own indie label).
I took my time with this one, because I also had to attend to a few other commissioned jobs throughout 2012 and
2013, besides ﬁnishing the latest Musiciens Sans Frontiéres disc. It ended up being very helpful to be working on
two, three projects at the same time. Making me see and hear things way more objectively, thus feeding my creative
process on all the projects. I found this to be the best way for me to get things done right.
Since I was a teenager growing up in Vienna, Austria, I have been striving all my life to shift a gear forward every
year. And I was very, very lucky to recognize early on, to just rely on my gut feeling and know how to position myself in the
right places at the right time, trusting that the universe then will serve me the right opportunities. It was then up to
me to just take them, or not..
That's how I knew I had to leave Europe, move to New York City, go to the Lower East Side and meet my incredible
lovely wife Jillie. Go on the road with her and the band, get the inspiration of my never ending Walkabout in the Sinai
desert, get my butt kicked by the rhythms of Salvador and so forth.
So, that's in short (kinda) on how I got to become a "one man orchestra", as Delarue recently wrote in the New York
To me, it feels more like I'm a conductor of an orchestra made up of phantom musicians. All sounds and samples on
"Vortex" are played live, nothing has been programmed. Every track has a core rhythm loop cut from the ﬁeld
recordings. Now I start building layers and layers of sounds, additional loops, tuned down guitars, synths and vocals
on top of that, running three or four different samplers at the same time. None of the loops are synched up in any
way, or locked to a central clock. Everything is ﬂying on top of each other, controlled via foot pedals, hitting one
another slightly differently every time the phrase comes around. It's like a DJ mixing vinyl records together on the
spot (or a tap dancer on acid, in my case...)
Brian Eno is one of my musical heroes. My brother Georg turned me on to him early on and it has been a huge
impact to my perception how to create music. I was lucky to catch a lecture by Mr. Eno at Manhattan's City College, a few years ago, where he spoke about experimenting with tape loops, running sounds on a various tapes at the same time, among other stuff. All reels played at different lengths with auto reverse, so when they turned around, the music never met the same way twice, therefore creating always a different mix.
In "Vortex", I apply a simular concept. Only, that instead of tapes, I use loop stations, as well as an occilating bass
synthesizer loop and then play guitar and piano on top of it all, etc.
In addition, an underlaying track vibes throughout the album, consisting of washed out ambient keyboards, mixed
with jungle sounds as well as train noises, raagini drones, buddist monks chants, drawing from a vast library of ﬁeld
recordings I amassed over the years. All that keeps coming around and around underneath everything else.
The percussion samples, as well as the nature sounds and other on-location recordings, have been altered from
their original performance. I applied various ﬁlters, reversed them, sped them up or slowed them down, added beats
and effects. Sometimes I fused two rhythms recorded from different parts of the world together, or add a kick drum.
Even background noises have their moments. I made them my friends. I've got nothing to hide, anything goes! The
sounds just weave in and out of each other, creating a sonic vortex.
- Do I make it all up on the spot?
The songs on the album are improvisational, as well as written and arranged at the same time.
Most of the tunes were played with a full rock band at some point of time in the past and some versions have also
been recorded before. A few tracks on the record are partly recycled ones. They consist of a medley of two, three older songs, outﬁtted with a new bridge and/or chorus, basically ripping off myself. I even sampled some selected riffs off of my older records and sprinkled it throughout "Vortex", perfecting the rip off (and/or exposing my lazy side).
I love to have deﬁnite songs, but I also like to present them differently every time I perform them. Now, this way, I
have the freedom to just hang out within the tunes, staying on whatever section as long as I'm feeling it at the
moment, thus giving it the improvisational feel.
I know, my music is a bit dark and heavy at times so I feel the need to mention, hey, I am a pretty happy-go-lucky
kind of guy most of the time. The moodiness has probably to do with my hungarian ancestry and growing up in
Austria. I thank the heavens for my wife Jillie! She helps me to focus on the essentials in life.
Although my lyrics reﬂect some feelings and experiences of mine, I do incorporate many stories from people near
me and create characters and vibes from their actions. The tales are kept vague and I like it like that. Think what you
want. Your own projections are encouraged.
- Thanks for listening!
There is still this young boy in me, sitting on the window bench on the third ﬂoor apartment and looking down on the
trafﬁc of Taborstrasse in Vienna, getting lost in day dreams of world exploration and deeds of grandeur...
I think, with this record it all comes to a full circle. You either like this album or not. That's okay! I never tried to please anyone with my works, ever. I cannot compromise in creativity (unless you are hiring me, and then compromise has a price tag). See, I'm the one who needs to look at myself in the mirror and say: "Isso, that's it. Fuck, yes!"
And to you, my dear audience, all I can guarantee to you is, that this one comes from my heart and soul.
I gave it all I got.