On top of being a lovely person, Access To Arasaka is among the spearhead of a new IDM scene of which the american part has proved his fruitfullness a long time ago. The composer of masterpieces such as Oppidan (here), void(); (here) and Orbitus (here) accepted to reply to Chroniques Electroniques, with humor and an infinite humility. The interview was supposed to take place somewhere between New York City (where I was this summer) and Rochester (where Robert Lioy lives all year), but we never found a convenient place, and we realized that Paris/NY via skype was close enough.
As far as you remember, what where your first musical emotions? What is the music you grew up with?
For some reason, I don't know why, music would always make me imagine certain things when I was a child. Some of the ones I remember specifically are like a construction site or this room that had like red bands of light from a sunset coming through blinds, and a connection of music being able to stimulate images coming in my head were just amazing to me. I remember a time I was very young, lying on the back in the kitchen and I was trying to catch rainbows on the floor. My mother was doing the dishes and we were listening to the radio at the time. That was one of my earliest memories. That moment just stuck with me always, all the things around it and the whole idea of being a child but the music is what stood out the most with me. Then 80's music is what I grew up with. It was really futuristic at the time, and it still is. A lot of songs like Safe By Zero by The Flecks still sounds to me like something you would listen to many years from now for some reason.
Can you tell me about your cultural world, including literature and movies?
For literature, I obviously love cyberpunk stuff but I just finished, finally, reading the Dark Tower series by Stephen King which was amazing. I pretty much read absolutely anything as long as it's well written. For movies, actually, I love horror movies. I don't know why but ever since I was a child, I love being scared. It's kind of odd because most of my music and everything else in my life is really common, and I love Sci-Fi movies. Concerning horror movies, I like a lot the psychological ones, Jacob Ladder, Videodrome, even the Silent Hill movie was really good. But I still love the 80's slasher movies like A Nightmare On Elm Street and Friday 13th...
Orbitus, your last EP, reveals an oneiric dimension, a kind of appeasement in the beatwork as in the emotions that are evoked, which contrast with void(); your previous and apocalyptic album. Is it a deliberated choice or something that came to you?
It was a very deliberate and conscious decision. The concept actually behind Orbitus as well as the next album Geosynchron, is kind of routed on series by Richard K. Morgan but a lot of it had to do with my own desire and my personal limitations. It was actually an extremely personal creation for me. It was a kind of treatment to make, simply because it was a documentation of wishful thinking. It was like me dealing with the emotions that come when I just awake up and realize that my life wasn't really what I thought it was going to be 10 years ago and how to get past of my own fears to strive for something substantial I guess, like maybe being successful. It was really about just the way that I stop myself from doing things out of fear. For the longest time I didn't really remote my music or anything because I was afraid people are going to hate it and I still hold back on certain things and I am afraid to try new things, I'm afraid of a lot of things. I'm not really sure why, but this is about me trying to deal with that fear and trying to get past it.
In the current IDM world, the way you process the sound material is pretty unique and immediately recognizable. In addition to the spatial aspect of melodies, rhythms refute the conventional sense. Digital bugs found in your compositions a true musical expression. Are you conscious of it? Could you explain it?
I think the reasons behind the contrast at the atmosphere, the drums and everything in my music simply comes from the fact that I make songs based on my influences. I love Orbital so I often keep them in mind when I'm doing melodies or atmospheres, but at the same time Autechre and Chris Clark are huge influences on the drum work. I guess I just try to somehow blend all my influences in together in my music which gives it a sound that everybody got used to. I really can't take credit for everything, it 's all because of everybody else that I've ever been listening to and I'm just copying them (laughs). You said “digital bugs”, I actually love keeping mistakes in my compositions, it feels very honest that way. Like if it's an accidental distortion, because I've got too many effects on, or if I cut samples and it has a “pop” at the end of it, a lot of the time I keep that in there just because it kind of flows with the music and even if it doesn't, it still feels honest to me, in the same way that a may be a painter might make a mistake.
Your music has always evoked to me spacial environment. Space, astral void are present in AtA aesthetic. Are the unknown and the future sources of inspiration to you?
They certainly are. Space is a huge inspiration to me, I often drive to the middle of nowhere, I just lie down on the back of my car and stare at the stars, thinking about music to make. On top of futurism and space, I'm also very influenced by weather and nature, thunderstorms and winds. For some reason, whenever there is a thunderstorm I just want to sit down and record, that's all I want.
Programming language, hacking and data bases haunt the titles of your tracks, your own website... Do you think that computer science can act in art more than just as a tool?
Yes, I definitely think that's possible. The entire idea of code and programming language has been enticing for me since I was young. Just looking at it evokes some kind of unexplainable joy. I know a programmer's standpoint, it is very much like the creation of art. It may be my own personal aesthetic talking but I think there is a correlation between the two.
Would you qualify your music as romantic?
Fucking hell... I wouldn't. Some releases had a sort of romantic idea behind them but romance is absolutely beautiful to me, it's pure... I guess I made a few songs that one could qualify as romantic but I personally wouldn't. That is mainly due to me not according my music to be terribly special. That's based on personal ideas, of course, but in my mind I haven't made a song even remotely as romantic as a song like Take Me Back by Subheim. That song is just pure romance.
You talked about the depth and the personal dimension put into Orbitus, is there here a kind of romantic idea that we don't feel in void(); for example?
A kind of I suppose. void(); really wasn't as personal as Orbitus. The whole idea of overcoming fears in Orbitus, a lot has to do also with my own feelings and fears like me not being good enough to be in a relationship or something. Orbitus was specifically made just for myself, I wasn't even going to release it, and then Paul (Nielsen) from Tympanik pretty much convinced me to do it.
I think we know and feel the sound result, but, in term of concept, how do you see the application of cyberpunk to music?
Well, I think there are several ways that cyberpunk can be applied to music. There's cyberpunk music that is created for that world specifically. A lot of the heavy industrial music right now feels like it could be listened to in forty years from now, where people are living in a world controlled by robots or something. I don't think that my own music has any place in a cyberpunk reality. It is more of an interpretation of cyberpunk for myself, and for people that are living right now. I just start making it personally really, something for people to listen to while they're reading William Gibson or playing a video game that has something to do with futurism. I can't really imagine anybody listening to one of my albums in forty years.
You are by far one of the major IDM artists today, and you keep releasing Eps, sometimes nine tracks long, as a free download why? What do you think about the situation of music today, its dematerialization? How do you dream it would be?
I certainly don't feel like a major IDM artists but thank you for saying that. I really don't feel that I'll ever be, I mean at least in my own eyes, I always feel like I have so much more to learn before I couldn't ever consider that. But I started off wanting to give music away for free. I never thought I would get signed to a label, especially one as amazing as Tympanik. So whenever I give something away for free now, it's kind of based on my original idea of wanting my music to be free, but at the same time, I think a lot of it has to do with just saying thank you to people. They put down they heart and money to buy stuff that I created, something that is a passion to me, that I love. So for me, just to sit down and create something else to give back to them is... I don't know. It's just something that I feel I almost have to do. For the second part of the question, I think it was expected for music to go digital. I personally love CDs and final records but I understand that it's easier to just have it all on your computer. But because of this, of piracy, sometimes it gets out of hand. Now that I'm with Tympanik, I mean, Paul put some money because he believes in me, in my creations as well as everybody else in the label, and I feel like it's unfair that he doesn't get as much as he could or should because of piracy. I'm not sure how I would dream of music to be, I think as long I keep making my own records and CDs, then I'll be happy. Well, if there's a new musical format that still a hard copy that can be good because, for some reason, I like seeing physical collection in people's houses, it makes me happy.
What can you tell to your thousands fans (and me) who hope to see you one day performing live?
Oh... It all depends on me winning the lottery. I've never expected to play live so my entire investment in the whole music scene has been for production. I don't even have a laptop, sadly. So, unless all of you guys, can fly over here into my studio and if you don't mind me just standing on stage, holding up a boom box in anyone of my hands, it's probably going to be a while but I would love to, I really would love to play live.
Can you tell us about your next album, will the atmospheric vein be further explored?
Somewhat, yes. It's definitely atmospheric, it's kind of a follow-up to Orbitus, but it branches up in the concept in a way. I guess it has more of a mechanical view point, if that makes any sense. There are more glitches, more otherworldly sounds, I really didn't focus on many organic sounds. The idea behind Orbitus was based on Takeshi Kovacs series (by Richard K. Morgan), Altered Carbon, Broken Angels and Woken Furies, and this one too, I guess, it deals with the humans ever trying to fight past, if that makes sense. The title is Geosynchron and the album is done so it will be released this fall, hopefully in October.
How do your coming projects look like? Collaborations on the way, writing, video? Can you tell us a few words about your project with our talented friend Timothée Mathelin (aka shift.)?
Timothée, yes... Well, we're trying to build a world that has a clear audio-visual type. I've created some songs to which he's interpreted through his artworks and at the same time, he's created some amazing visual pieces that I've interpreted for music. So I guess you could say that there is an artwork for each song but we will never really know which one came first. I'm really excited about that collaboration. Mainly because I want everybody to see the work that he's done, it looks absolutely amazing. That one is coming soon as well, it is almost done. There is something else that just developed in the last few days and I'm not sure that I can speak much about it... I'll tell you that it involves myself, Erode and also Dirk Geiger. The three of us are working on something but I won't tell you what yet.
You studied graphic design yourself. Do you see a link, a relationship between this discipline and experimental music like IDM?
In a way, I do. I'm often self-limited, my visual creations are sometimes restricted because, you know I'm not proficient in 3D modeling or I don't have a video camera for motion graphics or also I simply can't create what's in my head. But IDM doesn't have any boundaries and I feel like I can do absolutely anything with that. There is not many limitations, I suppose, at least personal ones. I guess there is a sort of correlation and I will sometimes attempt to put into my music some of the rules that are incorporated in graphic design, as far as it balances. I suppose music is almost an extension of visual creations for me because I'm not an expert, sometimes there is something that I want to be and I can't, and music allows me to do that.
Is there any question, any subject you would have liked to talk about?
Robocop. (laughs) But no, I won't talk about it. I talk about Robocop in like every interview so we can skip it for this one.
Thanks to Robert Lioy for his time and sincerity.
Interviewed by Manolito
Thanks to FA