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Compilation Artist

harbourcalm as a name came into existence looking out at the Wellington harbour, on a very calm day. From where I live the harbour looked like a huge flat glass bowl, it drew me in and held me. harbourcalm music is created to fit this image, this feeling.

harbourcalm

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How did you get into electronic music? Where did it all begin?

While playing drums in indie rock bands, the electronic side of my music began with a love for recording sounds, field recording - initially using a dictaphone, then other recording devices. A 'music concrete' approach had started. Sampling was a way of adding X factor sounds to a rock band scenario. As a theatre soundtrack maker, I'd use samples to create atmospheric sounds rather than focus on melody. The same could be applied to moving image soundtracks.

Is there one piece of gear that was a real turning point for you?

Firstly it would be the Tascam Porta 05 (4-track) & Roland S-10 sampler. These 2 and the portable recording devices. All recording machines. Then followed various other samplers - those field recordings would turn into something else entirely. The 4 track allowed some basic layering capability and the necessity to commit to an idea. Put it on tape. These days it's a computer and the crossfade loop synth plugin.

Is there a particular instrument or sound source you find yourself drawn to?

Sounds from nature have been a common theme or start point. I favour a "don't think, listen" approach. Being curious and slowing down enough to take things in can help find new sounds anywhere in the everyday.

What does your creative process look like? Are there particular techniques that help your process?

Record field sounds. Make samples of field recordings. Play the samples. Record what you play. Refine, refine, mess with things, repeat.

Where do you usually start when creating a new piece?

With field recordings you often end up with quantities of, and groups of sounds, e.g. the piano recording for the piece on this compilation. You might borrow an instrument with the idea of recording as many sounds as possible from it. You might go to a specific place because of a sound that is there. These are my usual kinds of start points. After that it is studio/computer based.

Do you find that other creative pursuits influence your music?

I've always found film inspiring and am currently working on a silent film soundtrack. I love all sorts of art, dance and theatre. Having made a lot of soundtracks in the past, most of the non-soundtrack music I make is instrumental. I've also enjoyed screen printing, making little bits of cheap jewellery.

Do you perform live? How do you translate your music into a live performance?

I used to be in bands in the 90’s & 00’s, and performed improvised electronics with Audible 3. Audible 3 combined live drum machine, sampler and bass synth & self-released a couple of albums. Currently I’m investigating a way to get back into performance, mostly it's a matter of finding people to perform with. I prefer to collaborate. My hunch is that future performance will combine live & pre-recorded elements alongside people playing instruments, and live electronics.

What is the source of inspiration for your latest work?

My grandmother Jean loved to play piano, she was often tinkering away, playing by ear and singing, at home in Whitianga. I recorded her doing this a long time ago and had always intended to create something from that. I took phrases of the original recording and sampled it, playing it back via a midi keyboard. Playing the sample is like playing any instrument - pitches and notes are layered, new chords and combinations form. Plus controlling the envelope and fx. I had fun remembering my grandmother's joy at playing piano.

Do you think the town you live in (Wellington) has an influence on your sound or process?

'harbourcalm' as a name popped into existence looking out at the Wellington harbour, on a very calm day! From where I live the harbour looked like a huge flat glass bowl, it drew me in and held me. I like the idea of creating music to fit this image, this feeling.

Having grown up in Auckland I moved to Wellington as a 20 year old & was well taken by Flying Nun of the early 90's. Thanks Wellington.

What is the strangest or most surprising instrument you have used?

Making samples continues to surprise, mostly for the transformation that a sound can go through. We’re on a hunt for an "oh yeah liking this" moment.

Who do you see as your biggest influence?

In terms of music artists, as a teen, Robert Smith, getting older Brian Eno, Miles Davis, Quincy Jones, Henry Mancini. But even bigger influences were friends and colleagues - from whom you learn alongside, with and from.

What records caught your attention early on and influenced your direction?

I still love the dreamy melancholy pop of The Cure, but Stunt Clown by The Headless Chickens really grabbed me when it came out, the mix of samples and danceable/swayable rhythms. Gaskrankenstation! Twisted pop music has always been appealing! Other Flying Nun bands like The Skeptics and Bailter Space were hugely influential. A love of jazz was also kicking in at this time, the feel of jazz rhythms, the starkness, instrumental, sometimes cheesy, sometimes bold and brash.

Recommend one artist for people to check out (other than yourself of course)

Check out Ryan Smith, trading as Silversmith, has guested on some of my guitar based tracks.

Also, The Floral Clocks I mixed their most recent album.