"I listened to Animal Dreams in preparation for this inverview. I was stopped cold by its contents...Only a few of the early pioneers into contemporary music really gouged an eternal foothold in the music world...Jimi Hendrix would raise little argument. Another, much earlier, brilliance showed itself in the work of Sergei Rachmaninoff. I believe that Ron Newman has been endowed with a good measure of that same musical intelligence and originality. This guy is definitely not just another piano player. - Terry Buchacher, Tributary Magazine "
Ron Newman has performed as piano soloist with orchestra, played jazz in Yellowstone Park, toured the Orient in a rock band, opened for Willie Nelson as a member of the Great Northern band, and written music for commercials and film, including the score for the Regional Emmy-winning I'll Ride That Horse, a chronicle of women rodeo riders.
Terry: "With regard to your extensive technical background and work in the computer industry, and aside from what must be ingrained in your from those days, to what extent does technology affect the decisions you make musically"?
Ron: "Zero. That is, musically, although technology does make a lot of things easier. For example, if I need an African Darbuka drum, a Japanese Shamisen, or gongs tuned to any note, I can have those sounds on my computer. I can do impossible things like fast trills on a harp; I can work out arrangements ahead of time, play with string voicings, take instruments in and out, before going to the studio. I'm not one of those genius guys who can hear it all in their head, I have to experiment."
"I use these tools and am glad to have them, but at the same time I worry that people will increasingly use technology to skip the hard parts of mastering a craft. The hard parts that you never really master, that's where the rewards are, that's where the muses hold their surprises. Only in the places in the craft that have been repeated and worked on until they are unconscious. The things you've learned and then purposefully forgotten.
I hope the next generation doesn't miss out on that kind of experience because technology has provided what looks like shortcuts. Some great music was made when things were harder, maybe because they were harder and you had to reach to get anything. Look what the Beatles did with just an eight track tape machine. Look what Bach did with trumpets that had no valves. I'd rather hear that kid in Seattle that drums great stuff with auto wrenches on a piece of 2x4 lumber than a rap beat on a drum machine."
Terry: "What was the initial impetus for creating Animal Dreams"?
Ron: "I wanted to write documentary soundtrack music so I started putting together a demo. But it got long enough to be a full-length CD, and I started thinking it would be a good experience to push the envelope, to do something that required more production than what had been done here before. I wanted to show film producers what could be done in Montana, with Montana facilities and musicians, that they don't have to go to California or wherever if they don't want to. A very kind patron believed in the idea enough to fund the long production cycle needed. As it turned out, though, a lot of the music is in song form, rather than the less structured style you hear in film."
"Also, I found myself experimenting with styles. I believe that almost every type of music has hit a roadblock. It's all been done before. My way around the roadblock is to combine styles that haven't been put together before, but only if they make musical sense. The sound of pleasure or insight still has to be there. I still believe in a good melody. Of course, this approach is not new, either. Sitars and string quartets appeared on Beatles albums in the 60's. But I think there's still room there. I don't believe in categories anymore. I like music I can't put in a box or describe to others in words."
Terry: "There seems to be a somewhat spiritual aspect to your music. How deeply is this integrated into your writing"?
Ron: "Most don't catch it, because the music on Animal Dreams is so melodic and pleasant sounding. It's not like it's drenched in teen angst or something. But my conscious thought during the writing of all that music was that I wanted to protest christianity and organized religion and influences that keep people in childlike dependence, rather than forging a new path."
Terry: "Whereas much of instrumental music uses emotion and often dips into the melancholy before returning to a hopeful theme (if it returns at all), this CD never seems to even approach negative emotion, but retains a hopeful and upbeat feel throughout. How much of this is intentional?"
Ron: "None of it."
Ron: "In fact, with this album, I intentionally tried to be dark and foreboding about things. It just didn't turn out that way."
Terry: "Why did you try to keep it dark"?
Ron: "I guess I didn't want it to turn out like Pollyanna. And the thoughts I was having and trying to express weren't light and breezy. But Carl Jung said that the subconscious compensates for the conscious, goes in the opposite direction. So maybe my subconscious was writing music the opposite of what my conscious thoughts would have dictated if they were given the reins. The message is still there, coded in places. In a way I guess it's cool to express hope and angst simultaneously, and one listener emailed me that she laughed and cried all the way through it. That was gratifying."
Terry: "How much, if at all, does your physical and/or geographic environment affect your work"?
Ron: "Not much, I don't think. I mean, to really know I'd have to go to Los Angeles or Chicago and see what came out there. Sometimes beautiful surroundings make it hard to get deep, if you get greedy and try to take it all in. But music comes from below conscious thought, so it might answer differently. And on the other hand, there are environmental things like being able to live a relatively simple lifestyle. I have both made a radical choice for that, and been generously given that. And there's the environment of solitude. I wait to write until I'm alone. Other people in a house stir up energy. Creative urges speak very quietly, and it takes solitude for me to hear them. I don't really want to talk about it. It doesn't like to be talked about."
Terry: "Along that thought line, where do the initial seeds of inspiration originate as you begin a particular piece?"
Ron: "The best ideas come from the non-thinking interludes. Aimless meandering when your mind is distracted. Or from mistakes. And then the mind says, "OK, I'll take over from here and build something out of this", and I just bang it out over and over until I come up with something I like. But the aimless, non-thinking mind will come up with junk if it hasn't been trained and disciplined. But really, the bottom line answer to your question is: I don't have a clue."
Terry: "What about recording? Do you find yourself attempting to direct the flow of those sessions toward a pre-conceived idea of end product or do you keep things pretty loose"?
Ron: "I always hope for surprises. But I'm also a perfectionist. There is a fine line between the two. The piece on the album titled "Willow Creek" started out with only some basic ideas for merging of African, Appalachian and Texan styles and instruments and it pretty much was an experiment in the studio. I just sketched an outline and let Dick [Ostheimer, percussionist] and Al [Cantrell, fiddle] fill it in. But most of the time I like more control."
Terry: "How do you choose your fellow recording artists"?
Ron: "If they can make real what I'm imagining, I ask 'em."