Today's Artist is a 'space' rock producer, one of the few ambient producers to use an electric guitar as his main source of music. He started playing guitar in 1980, playing what he could from the radio. It was not until he took classical and jazz guitar classes that he was introduced to different forms of guitar playing. Mostly influenced by the early sounds of Brian Eno's Music for Airports, the now experienced guitarist found his niche in ambient music, or space rock. Using his guitar and a slew of distortion pedals, and even sometimes a knife to bow the strings, his work developed a strong fan base..... N'Joy
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Jeff Pearce is an Indiana-based ambient/new age musician. He has been called "one of the top two electronic guitarists of all time" by Allmusic, while reviewer John Diliberto wrote in Billboard magazine that Pearce is "one of the best" guitarists to follow the solo electric guitarist concept. Pearce started playing guitar at age 13 and discovered the music of Brian Eno and Harold Budd while in college
Pearce's first album, Tenderness and Fatality, was released in 1993 and the following six albums saw Pearce focusing on creating music using only electric guitar. His albums To the Shores of Heaven and Bleed were picked as "album of the month" by the producers of NPR's Echoes radio program. For his eighth and ninth albums, Lingering Light and Rainshadow Sky, Pearce featured compositions written for the Chapman Stick.
Jeff is an active live performer, having played venues ranging from historic churches and concert halls to planetariums and dance clubs. His live performances are memorable events, mixing songs from his cd's with humorous storytelling and surprising musical improvisations. He has shared with stage with such performers as Will Ackerman, Stephan Micus, Steve Roach, Jonn Serrie, and Liz Story. Pearce's music can also be heard on the nationally syndicated weekly radio program Music from the Hearts of Space.
Jeff has also contributed his guitar and Stick playing to recordings by Kevin Keller, Paul Avgerinos, Jeff Oster, Robert Linton, and Vidna Obmana
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In caps, says that "No keyboards or guitar synthesizers used on this recording. Jeff Pearce produced the oneiric atmospheres of Tenderness and Fatality (Windchime, 1993) by processing and overdubbing melodic themes played on the electric guitar. The effect is similar to listening to several Mike Oldfield melodies played in the same room but slightly out of synch. Pearce abandoned that pastoral mood and embraced a more intense style with the layers and layers of electronically-processed guitar that compose The Hidden Rift
Jeff Pearce - Tenderness and Fatality (flac 156mb)
01 Upon The Edge Of Industry (3:54)
02 Two Bridges (3:40)
03 Gone And Forgotten (4:19)
04 Tenderness And Fatality (4:09)
05 Marionette (3:56)
06 As Memory Fades (2:46)
07 Their Angels Always See His Face (3:38)
08 A Year Of Silence (4:09)
09 This Frozen Land (4:53)
10 One Midnight Walk (4:11)
11 Long After Dark (4:27)
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Guitarist Jeff Pearce's caverns, clouds, and plateaus of resonant tones seem to pull from all restrictions of space and time. His arpeggios and melodies are extended and caressed (with help from Barry Stramp of Coyote Oldman). The pure tonal quality offers a sonic massage, an effect that could be enhanced by positioning oneself between the speakers. An album like this could slip one into the hypnotic realms, but Pearce colored the piece with enought gentle dissonances and piquant turns to keep the mind sharp. The effect is like an angel tightrope walking in heaven.
Jeff Pearce - The Hidden Rift (flac 190mb)
01 The Hidden Sky 3:53
02 Shadow Of Surrender 4:03
03 On Silent Paths 4:55
04 Last Light 5:57
05 Rain Clouds 10:20
06 Aftermath 5:02
07 Parting Words 4:49
08 The Hidden Rift 19:18
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Vestiges is the album that gained recognition for Jeff Pearce. Indeed, shortly after the release of this disc he signed with Hypnos Recordings and Mike Griffin. It is very easy to hear Griffin's reasons for signing Pearce. This atmospheric minimalism is just on the verge of Pearce's breakthrough from dark ambience and "scare the kiddies" music. (Pearce has made similar references in the past.) This soundscape teeters on the brink of bright and hopeful minimalism. It teeters on the edge of dark ambience, too. Pearce knew where he wanted to go; he was having trouble going where he needed to go. Such difficulties are all too human and Pearce's humility allows him to see and experience his shortcomings. This album will appeal to fans of James Johnson, Dave Tollefson, Darshan Ambient, and Terra Ambient. For fans of electronic minimalism it is essential. For casual fans, Pearce has better albums.
Jeff Pearce - Vestiges (flac 222mb)
01 Lost Summer 2:37
02 The Outer Circle 4:35
03 With The Morning Light 5:20
04 North Refuge 10:53
05 Vestiges 10:40
06 Eastland Nightfall 24:16
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This record begins with Jeff Pearce's trademark guitar synthesis and a short guitar solo by Serge Devadder, and only gets better as Vidna Obmana contributes his synthesized ambiences to the flow of the piece. This recording verily represents the coming together of two of the finest artists working in the ambient genre. Obmana and Pearce state that True Stories represents the true collaboration between the two of them. It is a departure from both of their current works, in that all the pieces are almost miniature in nature and combine as parts of a puzzle, or, in this case, like the chapters of a book. Their mutual passion for the intimate, serene, and beautiful lead them to where they both were able to pull inspiration from their personal lives and the experiences they share as human beings. They felt that True Stories is such a statement but it also offers the listener a place to dwell. They definitely have created a special thing in True Stories. While this recording stays with their own ambient direction, it is quite possibly one of the best records artistically from either of their catalogs.
Jeff Pearce and Vidna Obmana - True Stories (flac 291mb)
01 Opening Theme 3:40
02 Wander 5:29
03 Horizon of Thought 6:07
04 One Question 5:54
05 Frozen Breath 6:34
06 True Stories 4:44
07 Viewing the Distance 7:15
08 A Scattering Flock 7:44
09 The Open Darkness 5:58
10 Bright Clouds 3:45
11 Still Unknown 4:43
12 Closing Theme 4:06
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As the bio above is rather limited i thought to share here an excellent interview by Ambient Visions with Jeff Pearce in 2001
Talks With Jeff Pearce
AV: When was it that you first realized that music was going to be an important component of your life?
JP: Music always moved me as a listener, so, in that respect, I knew that music would always be an important part of my life. But my OWN music? That happened when I strummed my first guitar chord at the age of 13. To just feel those strings vibrate under my fingers, to hear the sounds change as I moved my hand around- I knew right then that I wanted this instrument to be the main outlet for my musical expressions.
AV: Were guitars always your instrument of choice when it came time to write music?
JP: No. I started out my musical life as a drummer. Before that, I was the victim of a few piano lessons! (laughs) Unfortunately, I didn't quite "take" to that instrument when I was seven years old. To this day, I have a lot of instruments around the house that I'm constantly playing- a piano, a synth, a zither- and they all inspire the creative process, but I really don't see myself ever recording my music with them. I respect my audience- and my own music- too much to subject either one to the noodlings I make on these other instruments! (laughs) There's a "freshness" that DOES come from experimenting with other instruments, but that freshness can be taken back to your "main" instrument, with a little bit of creativity.
AV: Who were some of your early influences in the ambient music field that helped to shape the sound of your music?
JP: It was all basically Brian Eno and Harold Budd. I came across a cassette copy of "Music for Airports" at my college bookstore in late 1985, and it was an incredibly "mind-altering" experience. I heard elements of chance and randomness introduced into music, yet without all the chaos and atonalism that I head in modern classical music. Then, about a week later, I picked up a copy of "The Pearl" by Budd and Eno. This time, I heard a more structured approach, but it STILL was in that wonderfully reflective place that I heard in "Airports". A week after THAT, I picked up Eno's "Music for Films". To this day, I still think that this ambient genre of ours can be best represented by these three recordings. There was no "ego" in any of these, Eno and Budd weren't out to loudly proclaim their greatness to all who would hear. They were simply making the music for themselves, on their own terms, and were patiently awaiting to see what shape the music would take. That patience, sadly, is absent from so much of today's ambient music, at least to my ears.
AV: Did you ever have any formal training as far as your music goes or was it mostly pick it up as you go along? Do you see any advantages or disadvantages to having or not having formal musical training as opposed to teaching yourself?
AV: I think I've asked this question of other musicians that I've talked to but I'm always curious as to how your environment affects the kind of music that you create. How did your environment (geographic/emotional) affect your writing and the style of music that you chose to pursue?
JP: I consider the enviroment I'm in to COMPLETELY affect my kind of music. At the moment, my wife, daughter, and I live on five secluded acres of forest in Indiana. We have a nice stream that goes through the property, and a lot of wildlife around us. I love looking out the window and seeing the seasons progress. It's beautiful, to my eyes, to see things slowy change every day.
For what I do, I can't imagine a more boring place than somewhere that doesn't have seasonal changes- where it's always hot or always cold all the time. I like the element of progression in music. In MY music, that's probably the reason that I DON'T use "static" loops- where the same thing just repeats over and over and over. I like to always have something new going into the delay line, at the same time that something old goes away. And the seasons are like this- every day, something new arrives as something old dies off.
AV: About when was it that you started to think of music in terms of a career and something that you could actually do for a living?
JP: I haven't done this yet, but I probably will soon! (laughs) Really, I DON'T view this whole process as a "career", because I know that, at least for the moment, this genre is way too small to sustain my approach to what I do.
There are a handful of guys out there "making a living" with this music and nothing else. God bless them, I say. But they are often working at a pace that I personally would feel uncomfortable working at. If I were cranking out a lot of cd projects a year, the quality of my music would suffer. I know this. Maybe these other people's music doesn't suffer from this pace, but mine would. My views of my music are such that I see what I do musically to be a piece- a very important piece- of the overall puzzle known as my life. Right now, I feel like there's a balance in the puzzle- at least at the moment! The other pieces of the puzzle are my family, my friends, my health, spirituality- the whole big picture. And yes- once all the pieces fit, life often scrambles up the pieces again, and you start all over. That's how it should be. But I know that if I were to make my music the biggest piece of the puzzle, my "life" would be poorer for it. Then, ironically, that neglected life would start to feed bad energy back into the music, diminishing THAT as well.
AV: Is there a conflict between you as an artist who creates the music for the joy of expressing himself and you as a businessman who must view the created music as a product that you have to bring to market? How is it that you balance these seemingly opposite ends of the spectrum to > achieve something that is satisfying to you as artist but allows you to make money from your creations?
JP: That part of the question is easy- I DON'T make money from my music! (laughs) Well, not very much at least.
I'm blessed that I work with a guy like Mike Griffin and the Hypnos label. Mike has a very business-like approach to Hypnos, don't get me wrong. But it's BECAUSE he has such a good business head that he can put out cd's that personally move and inspire him. I'm honored to be among that group of musicians. Mike doesn't get caught up in the "unimportant things" surrounding this music; if there was ever a "zen record label head", that would be Mike Griffin! (laughs)
Regarding the release of my own music, I'm afraid that I don't have any pained or tortured insights on the process; I simply release the absolute best music that I can with every cd I put out. Not a very exciting answer, right? "Trust" is the most important thing between an artist and an audience, in my opinion. And I want those who have blessed me by listening to my music to know that whenever they listen to a Jeff Pearce cd, they are hearing the absolute best that Jeff Pearce could do- it wasn't rushed, it wasn't an after-thought, it wasn't an attempt to further my catalog or my "presence" in the "music scene". It was simply my music, and the best of my music that I could create at that time.
AV: Looking back on some of your sophomore recordings are there any that stand out as favorites even now? What was it that makes them shine even after their time has passed?
JP: I still like my first cd "Tenderness and Fatality" from 1993. I took some heat from some ambient folks on that one, because that release was mostly recognizeable guitar sounds, and those sounds appeared in structured SONGS! (laughs) There were three cuts on there that forshadowed my more "processed" leanings- cuts that I did with a trusty Electro-Harmonix delay box, creating long infinite repeat delay lines and such.
A lot of these "spacy textures" I was experimenting with ended up appearing on my cd "Daylight Slowly" in 1998, which is another release of mine that is a nice nostalgiac listen for me. And I truly enjoy "To the Shores of Heaven", because, with that release, I was experiementing with textures and sounds that were different than what I had previously done, and different than what is the norm for "ambient guitar". But I also took the time to make sure that these sounds were worked into some good songs. Sounds are great, songs are better! (laughs)
AV: Do you have a certain way that you approach composing music when inspiration strikes you? Or is there some way that you start the process simply by sitting down with your guitar and beginning to play?
JP: Again, this is another not-so-exciting answer, but I really just let the "muse" or inspiration or whatever it is dictate the composing. I really DON'T try to force things out. I've always felt that if I wanted my music to feel smooth and effortless and flowing, then I'm not going to achieve that feel if I try to "force" the creation of the music. Sometimes inspiration strikes me while I have a guitar in my lap. But very rarely. Most of the time, inspiration strikes me while I'm just living my life-talking with friends, spending time with my daughter, cooking, doing yardwork. Oh, and sleeping- and I'm not crazy about inspiration striking at 2:00 am! (laughs)
AV: What kind of equipment do you have around the house to set down your inspirations in a permanent form for later manipulation?
JP: I'm fortunate that I have a very small yet intuitive set up in my basement studio. I have a Roland VM3100pro digital mixer hooked into my computer, and all my effects units and guitars hooked into the mixer. When inspiration strikes, I can quickly call up my Sound Forge program on my computer and record my "musical thoughts". Sometimes the whole thing comes out. Other times, it just a piece to a puzzle that will present itself at a later date. Regardless, I am always thankful for whatever arrives because of inspiration.
AV: How has technology changed the way that you as a musician take your creative idea from inspiration to final mix, ready for duplication and distribution?
JP: I've only recently gotten into the more technical/computer end of music making, and it's been a pretty steep learning curve! I've been very happy to embrace this technology, though, because it means total freedom for the musician. Or total chaos if you have a computer crash! (laughs) It's been useful to have all the songs on my hard drive, and be able to tweak them to my heart's content before burning a cd-r of them and sending it to the pressing plant.
AV: What was the first CD that you created and saw pressed and distributed by a record label? How does that feel as an artist to see your work moving beyond just you and out into the world?
JP: My first cd, "Tenderness and Fatality" was a self release project in 1993. It was a really odd feeling when it was sitting in front of me in physical form; I felt a little like I was at the end, and also the beginning, of a journey.
AV: I don't always think of a guitar as being a real subtle instrument but you seem to bring forth some wonderful sounds from your guitar...how is it that you process these signals to achieve such a flowing sound?
JP: I tend to approach my guitar in the same way as I cook- I throw everything at it, and examine the final results. If it tastes bad, well, I've eliminated one "recipe" from my library!
In recent years, I've found it far more liberating to focus on a few pieces of gear that really speak to me, as opposed to trying out a lot of different things. For example, the "mainstay" of my guitar set-up is the Roland GP-100 pre-amp. It's just a very deep and powerful processor, and I'm always discovering new things on it. I might not be discovering those new things if I were to buy a new piece of gear as soon as it came out and spend time with that- until a new piece of gear comes out!
What I REALLY like doing is taking effects that other musicians ignore for whatever reasons, and combine them with OTHER effects that musicians tend to overlook or underuse. Sometimes the result is disappointing. Ok, a LOT of times the results are disappointing! (laughs) But the times that it DOES work- it's great. Again, though- I've had more fun hooking my good old gear up in the "wrong" order than I've had with pieces of "ambient musician approved" gear.
AV: Tell me about how you hooked up with Mike Griffin and Hypnos records and what kind of relationship as an artist that you have with him. What kind of input does Mike have in regards to your music before you reach a final mix?
JP: Mike Griffin e-mailed me out of the blue in mid-1997 saying that he bought a cd of mine and really liked it. He mentioned that he had a web site, and gave me the address for it. I was completely blown away by his artwork. As we started corresponding, we developed a friendship- one which I cherish to this day. If anything, that's the most important aspect of our relationship- we both know that we can phone/e-mail each other if we want to rant and rave about AC/DC or Rush or Cheap Trick, or have deep philosophical discussions about the importance of videogames in our lives!
Mike and I sort of have an unspoken agreement regarding my music- he doesn't tell me what to play, and I don't deliver him a hip-hop cd! Seriously, he has such trust in me for what I do musically, that I don't want to deliver him anything short of my best. I value that trust he has placed in me.
AV: Is performing live as an ambient artist any different than putting on a concert within any other genre? Are there the same expectations or is there another mindset present within the ambient listener?
JP: I'm not the person to ask about live performances! (laughs) I've only done three of them. However, I do my best to present a "live" performance, as opposed to using cd-r backing tracks or pre-recorded sequences. I really don't know why so many live performers in this genre are using these things to "fill in" their performances. It's almost to the point where, sadly, the audience is ok with this. Maybe I just want to see musicians "suffer" when they play live! (laughs)
My attitude is that a live musical experience is supposed to be just that- a LIVE musical experience. If a musician is going to use extensive backing tracks, I'd prefer just to stay at home and listen to a cd of theirs. It's funny how some musicians enjoy talking about how their live performances are "on the edge", and yet they use such "safety nets" as cd-r's and the like.
Of course, I'm sure that using cd-r's has it's advantages in that you don't have to worry about creating as many things "on the fly". But I've liked that feeling at the end of my few live gigs- the feeling that I went out there, created something from nothing, and did my best at it. It might not have been as polished as using backing tracks, but the music created was created in that very moment, and was "real".
AV: How do your live performances influence the creative process once you get back home and start creating again?
JP: Actually, I've found that there's a bit of a "recovery" period from when I've played live. This is because I generally feel "musically spent" after performing live. Of course, it COULD also be that I'm a big wimp, too! (laughs)
My experience has been that playing live can bring some focus to what I'm doing musically. There's not a lot of difference in my "live" sound and my "studio" sound, since all my records since Vestiges have been recorded "live" to DAT or computer. It's musically satisfying for my to deal with all those layers of sound "live"- not because of any attitude of "look what I can do!" but because I enjoy the immediacy of what constructing everything live can do. There have been times where, through a "wrong" note or a "wrong" equipment setting, I end up in a great new place musically that I never would have thought of had I been overdubbing layers of sound.
However, sometimes that "wrong" note really IS a "wrong note", and then it's a matter of deleting that sound file and starting over.
AV: As a listener of ambient music it always seems to me to have a component of spirituality to it...do you find that your own spirituality influences your music during its creation?
JP: I believe that one's "spirituality", however THAT is defined, influences everything a person does- including writing music. To apply this to myself, my "spirituality" is often one of questions, not answers, and this, I feel, reflects itself in my music; what I do musically isn't exactly filled with that "I've got a lot of testosterone, I'm going to lead you by the nose to the exact place I want you to go!" type of thing! My spirituality tends to lean towards fragility and comfort, as opposed to strength and domination, and I believe that my music reflects this.
AV: As you look back on your releases for Hypnos, do you see your music growing and maturing as you go along?
JP: It seems so to me. Even if I weren't on Hypnos, I think my music would still be progressing, but I am so grateful to have a great and honest label like Hypnos "behind" my music, because just knowing that there is a place that will take great care of my music means that there's one less thing I have to worry about.
AV: Lets talk about The Light Beyond. Tell me about what the Gathering is and how you originally made contact with Chuck van Zyl.
JP: The Gatherings are a series of concerts in Philidelphia that are organized by Chuck van Zyl and Jeff Towne. These guys do an INCREDIBLE job of putting on shows featuring music in the electronic/space/ambient genre- I've been blessed to have played two Gatherings so far. Chuck has played my music on his radio show Star's End ever since the first cd came out, so I was more than glad to hear from him when he approached me about doing a Gathering. I had heard from other musicians that the Gatherings were incredible things, and they are. The audiences at the shows I played at have really blessed my heart- it was SO nice to be able to meet and talk with people who have sort of followed what I've done musically. At both Gatherings I've played, I've come away with some great experiences, and some new friends. I couldn't really ask for more than that.
AV: You had gone there with the idea of presenting a "sneak preview" of your upcoming musical project to the audience of Stars End. Tell me about the concert itself and what you found when you reviewed the live tapes that you made during the event.
JP: The Star's End "concert" was basically a "live on the air" concert at the radio station that airs Star's End. It was late at night/early in the morning (around 2 am!!), and I set my gear up and thought I'd give the Star's End audience a "sneak preview" of what direction my next project would take. I started to play, then Jeff Towne and Chuck van Zyl politely asked if they could just sit in the same room with me and watch and listen to what I was doing. I said "of course!" It was nice of them to ask, because I know that a lot of musicians like to be very alone and focused in that moment of creation, and I respect that. But I wanted the good energy of those two guys to be around me as I created the music, so it was good to have them there as I was creating. They talked, and laughed, and offered support.
I had started my music following a sort of "road map" as to what I would play. It's hard to describe, but I just kind of make "notes" to myself regarding where I would like the music to head. This way, I'm not locked into any certain pre-set musical expressions, but I have enough of a "plan" that I can keep in mind where the music was going. The idea was that, after this "sneak preview" on Star's End, I'd head home and sort of "re-create" what I had done. However, Chuck sent me a cd-r of the music, and I knew, the first time I listened to it, that I wouldn't be able to create anything that "spoke" what I wanted to say any clearer than the live on air performance. So I loaded that cd-r into my computer, put a fade at the beginning and end of the piece, and it was done.
AV: Do you ever do any collaborative work with other artists? If so what do you take away from such experiences and how does it add to your own style of performing and composing?
JP: I tend to "contribute" to other musician's music rather than collaborate. I've only done one "proper" collaboration, in the sense of the word, and that was with Vidna Obmana on True Stories. I've contributed parts to a lot of musician's existing songs, including Alpha Wave Movement, Jon Jenkins, Kevin Keller, Ruben Garcia, and some recent contributions to some songs by Paul Avgerinos for some tracks for his upcoming cd.
Whenever I am faced with contributing something of mine to someone else's music, I always try to find a good "space" for it. I never want anything I do to overwhelm what the other person contributed.
I think that any good collaboration should be like any good relationship; each persons brings what is unique about themselves into it in hopes of creating something beautiful. The worst thing that can happen is if one collaborator "dominates" or the other acquiesces. I don't necessarily think that the definition of a good collaboration is that "both parties agree on everything". If both parties of a collaboration agree on everything, then one of those parties is unnecessary. There should be an atmosphere of openess and honesty, where either party can express what they like or dislike about a certain piece of music/etc... without fear of angering the other person. The end result should be music that is something completely new and different from both collaborators- the old cliche about the whole being greater than the sum of the parts.
AV: What are your views on where the genre of ambient music is headed in the years ahead? Will it ever grow beyond its current niche or is it better off being a small and intimate form of music? (big business tends to rip the soul out of many artists and the music that they compose and I was just curious as to your ideas on why ambient music has stayed pretty much the same size)
JP: In my opinion, any time you're dealing with instrumental music, you will generally have a pretty small scene. We are so used to having lyrics with our songs, that we really don't know what to do with instrumental music of ANY kind, since it starts by asking us to fill in the blanks- to bring our OWN stories to the music.
You're right- "big business" CAN rip the soul out of many artists. I know of more than a few people who, sadly, have had some pretty bad experiences with the "business end" of this genre. That's why I believe that it is SO important as musicians to gaurd and nurture our love for simply creating the music. I have told people before that when I stop releasing music on cd's, it will be completely because of the business/political end of this industry. I will always love to create music, it's just pure joy for me.
But whether or not anyone ever hears that music- well, that's another story altogether.
If this "scene" becomes a very popular thing overnight- well, that would be great. But it wouldn't "add" one thing to that wonderfully fulfilling sense I have today when I create a piece of music- that experience is already "full" for me.
AV: What kinds of projects do you have in the works that we might be looking for from you in the next few months or even next year?
JP: I'm working on my next solo cd, which (hopefully!) will be finished by the time the new baby arrives. Yes- my wife and I are expecting again! After that, there's a collaboration in the works, but it's a bit of a secret at the moment.
AV: In closing, what is it that you would want listeners to take away from your music be it a live concert or
playing your CDs in their players at home?
JP: First of all, I'm grateful to anyone who takes the time to listen to my music. If anything, I hope that someone would get that from my music: that I am grateful to them, I am grateful to the Universe, to be able to be playing this music and having someone take time out of their life to listen to it. Time is our most precious treasure as people, so anytime someone spends it with my music, it's an honor.
I hope that the listeners would be able to sense that they are getting the best of what I have to offer musically. I would hope that the listeners would hear that I am simply a "searcher", just like they are. I have my own questions and puzzles to work through, just as they do. Music helps me do this- whether it be music I write or music that others write. And any time someone "invites" my music into their own personal space where their own questions and puzzles live- I am humbled and grateful.
AV: Many thanks to you Jeff for taking the time to talk to us here at Ambient Visions and of course the best of luck with any and all of your future projects.
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