Scott Lawlor is an artist I have been aware of for about a year. He is active both as a listener and collator of other people's music on his blog and associated podcast, The Blind Flight, (which has archives going back 3 years but has a longer history as an Internet radio show) and as a composer in his own right. Scott is a noisemaker and specializes in drone, noise and ambience. His projects can be of prodigious length (tracks of 45 minutes are not unknown nor projects that run to several hours) but this doesn't seem to bother Scott at all. I admire his commitment to what he is doing. Recently Scott submitted a track to one of my own projects and I said the piece needed to be between 20 and 25 minutes. When I received Scott's submission I chuckled as it was exactly 25 minutes in length. I felt like Scott had had to limit himself to do that! What follows is a brief interview with Scott about his music and his influences.
1. Please explain your musical history and how you come to be making music?
When I was in graduate school in 1990, I went to a local music store and purchased my first synthesizer, the Ensoniq SQ1, and after playing around with it for a while, and with some help from a friend who taught me some of the layout, I began to realize that I put sounds together much better than words. Up to that point, my ambition was to be a novelist but getting that first synthesizer was a life changing event for me.
2. What influences your music-making, both in terms of musical influences and in the tools you use?
My influences are quite varied from the instrumental music of Suzanne Ciani, who influenced a lot of my early compositions in the 90's which were more new-age in style, to people like Robert Rich and Steve Roach, who were very influential in my first explorations into space music. I am also influenced, to a large degree, by the music of John Zorn, especially in my more experimental and some of the organ works. Merzbow is also an influence when it comes to my more recent noise concepts and then, to round it all off, there are classical composers like Chopin, Debussy and Messean who have been inspirations in a lot of my live playing.
The tools I use are pretty simple, just a Roland FA-08 (which I got in 2014, before that, it was the Ensoniq TS12) and a computer with recording software and some plugins
3. Your music is quite long, I've noticed. Is this deliberate?
It depends on what it is I'm composing but in the beginning, when I seriously started composing ambient music around 2013, a lot of my works were longer in nature but as time went on, I tried writing tracks that were shorter. Even when I'm playing live and I'm going for a longer track, I have to always be doing something active because my attention wanders and I can become easily bored. That's also a motivator in trying different styles like dark ambient, ethereal ambient, space music, noise and some more experimental atonal material as well.
4. How do you form a musical idea? What is your process when working on a project?
A lot of more recent ideas are albums inspired by literature or articles from the Internet. The collaborative works with Rebekkah Hilgraves on the Aural Films label are examples of such works whereas the Divina Commedia series with Jack Hertz was inspired by the work of Dante.
Sometimes, the inspiration of a piece of literature doesn't occur until after I've written the album and am listening to the playback. The Dark Descent and up to Reascend is such an example, and though, musically it's inspired by the early work of Pink Floyd, upon listening to the final draft, I discovered that it fit the narrative of Paradise Lost very well.
Since coming up with titles is not something I'm good at myself, I'll just start browsing the net while I'm listening to a track and find a phrase that seems to fit the mood of the piece at the time of listening.
With a lot of collaborations, I'll send someone a drone and then that person will add layers to it or the reverse will happen, at which point, we'll talk about titles and artwork and schedule the project for release.
5. If you could pick 3 musicmakers to learn from who would they be and why?
John Zorn because he also plays in a variety of styles from jazz to avant garde to classical. I have always admired his ability to jump from one style to another and not to conform to the establishment. If you haven't heard any of his interviews, try to find them, they are a fascinating listen.
I'd like to explore more noise music and learn from different people in the genre, not just about what equipment they use but production techniques and how they come to conceptualize the work that they do.
6. What musical ambitions do you have in the future?
An ultimate dream would be to be able to play at the drone not drones 28 hour event in Minnesota some day or actually jam with ambient musicians in a collaboration effort. Oh yeah, I'd like to play a real pipe organ as well. I love the sound of the organ and since I don't feel that the instrument is represented very well in ambient. I've made it one of my missions to change that.
Thanks to Scott for providing the interview. You can find his music on Bandcamp at https://scottlawlor.bandcamp.com/ and his podcast and blog at https://theblindflight.wordpress.com/ He is on Twitter @sklawlor
His track for my new project Silent Screams can be found HERE!