This is the place where you would usually read about all of the wonderful and charming aspects of an artist - usually written in third person, or interview fashion. However, I suspect that many of those third person bios are actually written by the artists themselves - I even had a draft of one such document ready to put into this space. Then I realized that the entire concept is ridiculous and decided to do it differently. I decided to simply talk directly to you, dear reader. These are my own words, from me to you, as if we were face to face - or better yet sitting in comfy chairs in my living room, me with a big mug of PG Tips tea and you with your... whatever it is you drink!
OK, so where to begin... (PS: if you want to get straight to my thoughts on SecondaryCell please skip all of the background and jump down to the last couple of paragraphs in this tome.)
Well, I love Music (duh!)... oh, you noticed the capital M - that's to show much respect for what I believe is a powerful force in the Universe, and not to be taken lightly. Music has been a large part of my life, although at times I didn't realize it. Like when I was a little kid playing with my father's Hallicrafters ham radio, making all sorts of weird sounds by tuning it between frequencies... my first synthesizer, actually. I think the ham radio was partially responsible for my interest in electronics, along with the fact that both my father and grandfather were electricians. I also had a little cassette machine that I recorded my "stories" into. These were short skits where I acted out character's parts and one of them would usually get stabbed, because I loved my sound effect for the stabbing. I would take a full cabbage or head of lettuce out of the refrigerator and plunge the biggest knife I could find into it - while recording the whole affair on my cassette recorder. It was a GREAT stabbing sound, and of course I did it over and over.
Later I took up the trombone (not my first choice, which was a saxophone that was deemed too expensive). Needless to say, I didn't stick with the trombone so when I finally asked for an electric guitar the response from my parents was "We're not getting you a guitar and wasting any more money like we did with that TROMBONE!" So I saved up a paltry amount of money (by doing what... I don't know) and walked into Masons (like a Walmart) and walked out with a Tiesco electric guitar... no case, no amp - just the guitar. This is supposed to be the place where I say "And the rest is history", but it wasn't. I took the guitar home and not much happened. It seemed the Tiesco was going to go the route of the trombone.
An aside to this story is that I was also into motorcycles and raced them in motocross events. I did this in the summer and then tried to learn the guitar in the winter, and wasn't doing very well at it. Then I was in a motorcycle accident and realized my own mortality, which took my heart out of motocross racing. This had two benefits: I now had the full year to work on playing guitar, and more importantly I sold my motorcycles and purchased a decent amp (really decent - a Marshall stack). Now THIS is the place where I say "And the rest is history". From that time onward music has been the driving force in my life, and like the best of friends it has never left my side.
Next I'll condense a bunch of events from my life (or this will become REALLY long) in an effort to give you some background on where I'm coming from... let's see:
• I attended a three year course in electronics, which I applied for initially to be able to repair and modify my band's gear. As time went on this electronics background saved me over and over again, eventually putting me in the music industry working in world-class recording studios.
• I began my musical adventures as a rock guitarist, but a turning point came when a Hammond M3 organ (complete with two Leslie 147 cabinets) came to reside in my band's rehearsal room. Since no one in the band had any reasonable knowledge of keyboard instruments I found myself gravitating toward the Hammond. I suppose that my first attraction to it was due to the fact that it was heavily in need of repair. It had broken keys, missing tubes and the tone wheels were in severe need of oiling. But this sent me on my way into the world of keyboards.
• Next I discovered a company that made inexpensive modular synthesizers which were even more financially appealing due to being available in a build-it-yourself kit form. I was really craving a Minimoog synthesizer, but the price was completely beyond my budget. However the kit company - called Paia - was the answer to my dream of actually laying hands on a synthesizer. I now know that my financial predicament was in fact a hidden opportunity, as the process of building my first synth provided me with a deeper understanding of synthesis, electronics and music. In a matter of weeks the Hammond had a modular synthesizer resting on top of it with patch cords dangling - and everything was about to change.
• About this time I began to be influenced by artists such as Tangerine Dream, Kraftwerk, Klaus Schulze and Larry Fast's Synergy project. I was visiting a guitarist friend and he put on Tangerine Dream's Rubycon with the disclaimer that I was probably going to hate it. Instead I loved the album and went right out to purchase it along with band's previous release, Phaedra. It wasn't long before I was attempting to emulate the sounds and structures of Tangerine Dream into my own early pieces on the Paia modular.
• Eventually I saved enough money to be able to purchase a Minimoog, and shortly after that acquired my first multi-track tape machine, a 4-track Teac 3340. These two new devices moved me into a whole new level of electronic music composition. I've always been the person who did the recording in any band that I was ever in... I still have tapes dating back to day one. Once I had the 4-track I realized that I really loved recording (probably from those old cabbage-stabbing days) and the Minimoog was the icing on the cake. By the time I had gotten the Minimoog I already knew the Paia modular inside and out. Being that it was patchable, and I had actually built the thing, I was fairly knowledgeable in the details of analog synthesis. So I was able to dial up some favorite sounds on the Mini very quickly due to its simple preset layout. However the sound that came out was stunning... just unbelievable to me, miles and miles above the actual sound quality of the Paia - I loved it!
• OK, from there I went through about a million keyboards, drum machines and various recorders. I cut a single with a prog-rock band (Skyler), then later a full album with a new wave band (Transmuters). We recorded at a professional 24-track studio and it was my first time being in such a facility. From the moment that I set foot in the place I realized that this was where I wanted to be, in other words this was the type of environment that I wanted to work in for the rest of my life.
• I decided to leave my small town and move to one of three places: New York City, Los Angeles or Nashville. I felt that in order to be able to work in the music industry on a larger scale that I would have to go to one of these three places. They were the locations where the record labels, recording studios and music industry infrastructure lived. I chose the most unlikely of the three: Nashville, because I felt that my electronic and experimental background would allow me to stand out in the Country Music oriented city. I think that my assumption was correct because within a short period of time things began to happen.
• I received a call from Keyboard magazine regarding music that I had submitted for the magazine's "Discoveries" column. Each month Keyboard would feature the work of unknown artists and the next month I was going to be featured. Things were starting to happen for me in Nashville, and a world of possibilities began to present itself. I landed a job at a world-class recording studio, and began to meet and record with some of the city's excellent musicians. Contrary to popular belief, Nashville has much more than Country Music going on. While at the studio I was able to work in various capacities with artists such as Queensryche, Bon Jovi, Stevie Wonder, Ziggy Marley, Steve Winwood, and dozens of others. It was great experience and the best part was that I had access to the studio during off-hours to work on my own music.
• Eventually I completed an album with two of my friends: Mike Griffith and Chris Tench, and also with the help of ambient artist Giles Reaves on drums of all things. We called ourselves Element 115 (a UFO term, this was around the time of Y2K and all of that hoopla). The record was very experimental, heavily electronic and great fun to make. Since we were under no commercial restrictions we allowed ourselves to follow where the music took us. We employed techniques such as using Brian Eno's "Oblique Strategies" cards to put elements of chance into the music. This was the first time that I was actively putting into practice many of the concepts of people like Eno and Robert Fripp (who I consider to be my mentor).
• As fate would have it the studio where I worked eventually closed due to the declining state of the music industry. At this point I jumped off the deep end and took over the space, turning it into not only two recording studios, but also a graphic design department, indie label and digital art gallery. I rented out rooms in the building to a couple of producer and remixer friends, and for a while the place was a beehive of activity. For me the high point of this period was hosting a Q&A session for Robert Fripp. However, owning a commercial studio is a difficult business and even though I was in this beautiful facility every day I actually made less music than at any other time in my life. I did manage to record most of an eclectic, acoustic project with my wife and a friend, but it has not yet been released.
Alright, time to wrap this up and get to SecondaryCell.
Again the declining music industry took its toll and I was forced to closed down the commercial studio, so I stepped back to regroup and rethink what to do next. The obvious thing was to build my own studio using everything I had learned over the years. In 2003 I began building my dream studio in what was the garage area of my house. I thought I would have it completed in a few months, but I ended up doing absolutely everything myself and it took - four YEARS. Then, finally I got the construction done, and then the wiring, and then I fired everything up. At that point something wonderful happened - Music came knocking on my door, so I invited it in. Within a week I had written the basis to an entire album of tracks - in the IDM, down-tempo electronica vein. I had recently rediscovered electronic music after being introduced to Boards Of Canada. Now everything is fresh again - there are a million electronic artists out there to discover and I'm having a blast.
And now for my favorite part of this whole story. I'll tell you about how the SecondaryCell music came to me because it was incredible - I've never had an experience like it before. Basically I couldn't touch a keyboard or guitar without a piece of music coming out. I felt like the music was coming through me from somewhere else - another place. I was almost totally unaware of what notes I was playing, what key I was in or any other analytical aspect of the music. It was like playing with a Ouija board, my hands were moving over the instruments but I didn't know what was coming through me... or where it was coming from. An even odder experience for me was how I felt when I listened back to the tracks that were beginning to take form. It was as if I was listening to someone else's music, I didn't feel like I had written the material. Also, I was getting huge emotional responses from this new music, chills down the spine / hair standing up on the back of the neck kind of feelings. That had never happened with my previous projects, and I was sure that this music was true, in other words not conceived with any other purpose than to be what it was. My biggest job was just trying to stay out of the way as much as possible - not to second guess anything, or to try and steer the music in any predetermined direction.
And so SecondaryCell was born - my hope is that you will find something in the music that touches you in some way, as it did for me. I consider it to be a gift given to me, and I'm simply the messenger trying to pass it along to anyone that might be interested.