Sadness is in the sky

by Steve Phillips, Dec 2001 (Australia)

* ‘Violence of discovery and calm of acceptance’, is this for you a reflection of that emotionally that you hope is felt through these tracks?

This title is a reference to several things, some are personal and some are universal. It connects to the music since most of what i do is in a state of mind which includes what the title describes. But i didn’t try to express this idea in the music, the music is as abstract as can mnake it.

* When was this album put together?

By late 1999, but it took a whole year refining the sound for the mastering.

* The sleeve states that the recordings were between ’93 and 2000, are you amazed that they sit so well together given that they’re work from over such a long period?

No, not at all… It’s true that each has a different charachter for having been done in a specific period, but when i first had the idea to make this record, back in 1993, i set the basic concepts for it, so each new piece would be made in a way to belong to it. I new it would take long. Note that i released all my other records, not to speak of many other projects, *after* i began recording VDCA. It’s like a long thread which kept developing very slowly.

* The sounds and the structures imply careful exertion from you as the player, what is the manner in which you compose the tracks?

[Steve, i answered that question before – if you don’t mind, i quote myself. This was on a small zine in Rochester.] Normally, my studio working process would be recording a track, then process it with a view to add new dimensions to it, or adding other somehow complementary sounds. The result is usually a thick mass of sound, from which i have to get a sense of form and then, with great care, select and remove about 90% of what was recorded, until only what is essential remains. This is how i did “Wave Field” and it’s the process i used for the small pieces in “Violence of Discovery and Calm of Acceptance”. It’s a painstaking, laborious process. The music may often sound blurry and dreamy, but it’s actually full of edits done with atomic precision. “Wave Field” took about a year to complete and each of these small tracks, which are about three minutes long, took about three months each. But it’s well worthwhile in the end…

* You play live a lot, I imagine you do quite a lot of improvised performances..

Not that many, really… I have a day job and i can only tour on vacation time. Sometimes i’m not in the right wavelength to play live and really need to stay home and do studio work.

* Is this collection one that defines your aesthetic as a musician?

More than an aesthetic, it’s a set of values and principles, and ways of working. They can be applied to different aesthetic sensibilities. I can do guitar drones, or freaked-out electronics, or whatever. The aesthetic is a matter of *form*, that is, of which shape the contents take when they are materialised. The kind of formal context we find in VDCA is perhaps the most relevant in me. This record does represent very well all the work i developed in the last 15 years, in this path.

* What have been your influences as a musician/artist?

John Cage, Sonic Youth, Brian Eno, James Turrell, Christian Marclay, My Bloody Valentine, Alvin Lucier, minimalism.

* This album has been released by Touch & in Europe by Staubgold, two excellent labels. How did you get involved with Touch?

I thought they would be a good label to release VDCA on, so i just wrote them and they were very welcoming. I had met Jon beforehand, too.

* These days where are you living?

In the city of Lisbon, just next block from where i was born. It’s near a cemetery and aligned with one of the airport’s landing tracks, so planes fly right overhead, which is great.

* You perform a lot all around the planet it seems, is there any part of the World more receptive to your music than any other?

Oh, no, i only travelled just within the same quarter of the globe… but i would say the United States and Germany are the countries where i have felt most welcome.