Embark on a musical journey with Minorarc as they share their evolution from classical violin to experimental underground music, the Tokyo influence, Enzyme concert series, and their upcoming album 'Inclusions
Can you tell us about your musical journey, starting from your classical violin training in Tokyo to your current project, Minorarc?
Learning to play the violin was a feature of my early childhood, which feels like so so very long ago now! At the time, I honestly didn't enjoy the instrument very much, but there were aspects of this training which led to my deep love and appreciation of musical instruments, and music itself. It was what started me on a long journey to collect and listen to as much different audio as possible. My late father was a hobbyist luthier too, so I gained a deep respect for the work that goes into crafting instruments very early in life. Throughout my youth, I always hoped to one day play in a band that wrote "interesting" music. My tastes expanded over time, from classical to 90's industrial and grunge, and then into extreme varieties of metal and experimental electronics. Many years later, having moved to Tokyo from Australia, I was finally in a position to create solo compositions. A lot had changed since the days of the violin. Common computers were finally capable of recording complex audio at CD quality. CDs could be self-published, thanks to the marvel of CD burning machines! The internet allowed artists to connect in web forums and share music without the obstacles of geographical boundaries, or gate-keepers at a record label level.
The first solo project, "Mystral Tide", spanned from the year 2000 to 2009. Much of this period was about learning how best to make the music I wanted, experimenting with different hardware, and kind of just finding a path through the seemingly endless maze of options. Much of the music was darkwave and gothic-inspired electronics, with occasional touches on electric guitar and classical piano. This whole process was one of self-learning, though I was also blessed with some friends who offered great direction and new tools along the way. I still use an Alesis QSR rompler to this day, which was loaned to me by a dear friend who I met in Tokyo, who now records as 2DCAT ( https://2dcat.bandcamp.com ). Sean of then Australian label, Zeitgeist Records, also acted as a mentor, and also signed the project. I played my first live performances in Japan and also supported Seij minus aÇ ( https://soundcloud.com/seijminusac ) with a live performance at the Wave Gotik Treffen festival in Leipzig during 2002. The next year I relocated back home to Australia, and kept recording and performing as "Mystral Tide" for quite a while.
By 2009 it felt like time to try something different, and the only way to get my head into a new space musically, was to re-brand and start something new. This lead to the current project "Minorarc", which still has touches of "Mystral Tide" to it, with orchestral pads and piano work, yet has moved away from gloomy darkwave into more of a modern metal district. I really enjoy listening to progressive metal and avant-garde these days, so I try to bring the elements of these styles into the pieces as well. I can't help but try to fuse classical piano, cinematic sounds, and prog metal all into one cohesive form.
What inspired you to transition from classical violin to experimental and underground music?
This largely came about through personal experience, and exposing myself to music in many forms. I eventually found the styles that really resonated with me. They were really exciting days early on, wandering around record stores and going to live events, not knowing what to expect! Back then you would rent a CD for a few days, with no prior knowledge of who the artists were, or their style, and just see. It was like a lucky-dip. You eventually found the artists you adored, and from there started purchasing and collecting albums. People were very loyal to their favourites, and very passionate about physical media too.
Your first project, "Mystral Tide," performed at various industrial and darkwave events. Can you share some memorable experiences from those early performances?
My first ever non-classical performance was a gothic industrial event in Tokyo. It was a small venue with a really committed following and some really passionate organisers! I recall arriving with a close friend, and being quite shocked that we were the only artists on the bill with a keyboard. Well, multiple keyboards. We had to lug a heap of rack gear, a Korg MS2000, a Roland JP-8080, and other assorted goodies, including a desktop PC and monitor, all the way to the venue on a late night subway train. Taxis were out of the question, due to the mammoth costs involved in avoiding public transport. The other performers just brought guitars...
How did your time in Tokyo influence your musical style and approach to music-making?
Tokyo was a very stifling place with high-pressure jobs, confined living quarters, pollution, personal dramas, and honestly... often pretty horrible weather. As a foreigner I was often left feeling quite estranged and misunderstood. This all only worked to deepen a desire to do something musical and artistic. "Mystral Tide" became an outlet for frustration, and a safe little personal space to retreat into. At the same time, the city was blessed with a lot of highly inspiring qualities. There were magnificent "hole in the wall" style venues, some really lovely music lovers in the community, and to top it all off, some of the most incredible music hardware stores on the planet. A plethora of musical marvels were available in the form of synthesizers both new and vintage, guitars of all kinds, the latest in computing technology, it was all at your fingertips (if you had the cash, which most of the time I didn't, but some savings were spent on odd treats along the way). This all influenced me to always be looking out for new ways to make music.
Returning to Australia in 2003, you established the "Enzyme" concert series. What motivated you to create a platform for independent Australian experimental musicians?
In Tokyo I'd had the great pleasure of co-organising a regular industrial music event, CyberAgeVoodoo. Strangely, the work involved in this was like a break from recording, yet still really rewarding and creative. To this day, I quite enjoy the process of "marketing", designing promotional graphics, exposing music and bringing people together. After returning to Australia, it was found that without these things there was an emptiness that needed to be filled! I organised a few underground events at different venues, and then once we found a true home, Blue Velvet in Melbourne, it became titled Enzyme and a regular occurrence. The focus was on creating live performance opportunities for artists who were independent, unrecognised, and making music at the more extreme ends of the spectrum.
Could you highlight some of the most exciting and innovative artists you've had the privilege of showcasing through "Enzyme" over the years?
Honestly, all the artists were innovative in one way or another. The range was really broad, as we wanted to give pretty much anyone who was enthusiastic, an opportunity to present their work. We often had noise projects and experimental work downstairs, and larger bands performing upstairs later in the night. For those curious, there are still of lot of flyers and photos from these events online at Flickr ( https://www.flickr.com/photos/27564018@N05/albums ). The event that really sticks in my mind is one we organised as part of the 2010 Melbourne Fringe Festival, which showcased independent art in many forms, at numerous venues around the city. Our contribution featured performances by:
DJ Infectious Unease ( www.infectiousuneaseradio.com ), a co-organiser who has been on the airwaves for over 30 years
Alternate Parallel Reality, who came all the way from Brisbane to perform
Sarcophony ( https://sarcophony.bandcamp.com/ ), with one of their rare full-band performances
Cassandra's Myth, now Sleeplab ( https://sleep-lab.bandcamp.com/ )
The BasticH Band ( https://bastich.bandcamp.com/album/decimator )
Digital Assassin ( https://scottyblikeminded.bandcamp.com/album/the-digital-assassin )
Manticle & Doll Disorganation
The event was a massive undertaking, with all these artists and their followers crammed into a modestly sized venue! It even had its own printed programme and a CD compilation for all the guests to take home with them. The whole thing stirs some very fond memories.
You've been recording and performing as "Minorarc" for over two decades. Can you walk us through the evolution of your music, from synth-heavy dark electronica to progressive metal and post-rock?
The plan with Minorarc was to move away from dark electronics and more into "guitar-friendly" territory. I wanted to introduce some metal and harder industrial features into the recordings as a way to challenge myself, and also just try something new. The first Minorarc release ended up being a strange combination of prog metal with some rappy and electro elements tossed in. There was a semi-death metal track in there too. After that, I took about a decade's break from recording as my work-life became very chaotic and draining. An employer went into administration, I was commuting long distances, there just wasn't enough fuel left in the tank for music-making. It was only two years ago that Minorarc was exhumed. Covid and the associated lockdowns with their isolation times finally got me feeling musically creative again. The plan was to really push some limits this time around, and take note of how metal music had changed over the last twenty years. I also devoted a lot of time to setting up the studio a little differently, and learning to use a variety of new tools and techniques. The first Minorarc release back in 2010 had been smashed out in about two months whilst my spouse was overseas. These days that is barely enough time to complete two tracks! There is no rush anymore, and the whole process is much more relaxed and rewarding.
"Minorarc" is known for its emotionally charged and non-traditional compositions. Can you share some insights into your creative process and how you channel despair and regret into your music?
The emotional changes in the music just come naturally, and subconsciously I'm probably always trying to balance between light and shade. Melancholy just seems to come naturally much of the time. I've lived a long portion of my life with regrets and shadows, but I won't bore your readers with all that! No doubt most artists have their own inner difficulties, and creativity becomes a way to channel these things into something productive.
The recording process for Minorarc is relatively free and organic. I don't write songs or worry about traditional structures too much. Instead, it is usually just a case of recording a few bars, and seeing where it all leads. The music kind of dictates where it needs to go, and I think of it as being my role to just guide things in a direction that feels natural. The procedure is quite painless and experimental, until the work is mixed, which is quite the opposite, as that's when the pain starts to ramp up! Having a wide variety of instruments and passages working together as a cohesive unit requires a lot more fiddling around than I'd honestly like. That's the trade-off when recording without pre-planning, perhaps.
Your fourth full-length album, "Inclusions," is set to be released in 2023. What can listeners expect from this new album, both musically and thematically?
Inclusions will most likely be the final chapter in a chain of releases with a particular theme. The preceding albums Untold and Overburden were driven by concepts of drowning, loss, renewal and the questioning of those things that mere individuals can not impact upon, such as their dreams and nightmares. To continue this trip, Inclusions was designed to focus instrumentally on the subjects of error, failure, and fracturing. I took the concept from another passion of mine, gemstone cutting, where inclusions within raw material have to either be carefully removed, or allowed to become a prominent and natural feature of a finished product. The recordings are supposed to be a blending of organic and analogue instruments, with machine-like and heavily processed sections as well, much like the relationship between a human operator and machinery used to a undertake particular task. As a result, the work is sometimes disjointed, or even overly complex. This was the first album where I dared to up the tempo a bit as well, and focus more on quick melodies than long and drawn out pads, which have usually been a bit of a mainstay in past work.
"Inclusions" blends elements of modern metal and djent with classical piano and orchestral pads. How do you approach merging these contrasting musical styles to create a cohesive sound?
This is a difficult one to answer, as it feels like this happens quite naturally at the time of recording. Often, I'll start a piece with the intention of it being ambient or classical in sound, yet ultimately a point will be reached where something simply has to change. It might be a sharp shift into a metal section, or a gradual build into something more chaotic. My hope is always to keep listeners interested and on their toes, and also write music that can be explored during further listening. The transitions are decided on by a gut-feeling of where the music needs to shift in order to travel along a different pathway, yet stay relevant to the track and greater album as a whole. Instead of focusing on key or tempo changes, I'll often tend to swap instruments, genres, or styles of playing instead.
As a multi-instrumentalist, you work with various stringed instruments. How do these instruments contribute to the unique sonic palette of Minorarc?
It is quite rare that I play violin anymore, as it was a cause of neck injury in the past. Perhaps just a rare little line here and there. The natural alternatives were mandolin (due to it having the same tuning), and as an extension from that, guitar and bass guitar. I am not a particularly good player of anything really, but trying out different instruments brings me a lot of joy. Everything has its own particular personality and quirks, which I try to exploit in the recording process. I've been known to build kit Telecaster guitars, just to get a classic "twangy" sound, and also experimented a fair amount with contact mics placed on classical guitars. My main instrument for many years was a PRS seven string guitar, and an old Ibanez bass. These two just felt right, and good, and recorded the tones I was looking for at the time. Having recently moved some 600km back to Melbourne in 2023, there has been a major trim-down in the number of instruments available. To try and cover the guitar and bass needs I've swapped over to an eight string, which is still a shift that I'm experimenting with and trying to come to terms with. Alongside these stringed instruments I do a lot more work in the DAW these days, writing sections in midi or adjusting sounds produced on a MicroKorg and Alesis QSR. Sometimes these will go back and forth between "live" recorded audio and programming.
What role does live performance play in your musical journey, and do you have any upcoming shows or tours to promote "Inclusions"?
I've often considered live performance to be a reward for working so hard to write music. It is a way to lengthen the journey beyond the studio or album's completion, and test things out in an entirely different environment. I really enjoy performing, and working as guest artist for Sleeplab ( https://sleep-lab.bandcamp.com ) a little under a decade ago was truly a blessing! Minorarc's earlier incarnation also performed in Australia several times. For the more recent Minorarc pieces though, it is difficult, however I haven't yet ruled out the prospect of trying to reproduce some of the works in a live setting. There are a lot of challenges though, and reinterpreting the music so that it could be performed by a two or three-piece will take substantial reverse engineering and re-thinking a lot of the material. This may indeed be the next step in my musical journey! It will be interesting to see. Performing requires an incredible amount of work, time-management and energy, and to those who do it consistently I am often in awe. Life is just so complicated, so it boils down to being able to lever obstacles out of the way and make a solid commitment.
Finally, what do you hope listeners will take away from "Inclusions," and what's next for Minorarc beyond this album?
Honestly, I just hope some people enjoy the listening experience! For those who've followed the journey through the previous albums, I also hope that it feels like an evolution, and perhaps the end of a sonic story for now. If it surprises some listeners and challenges some ears, then I am extremely happy and grateful too. We are deeply appreciative of our supporters and followers, and everyone who has helped us along the way as well. This includes people like you who take time out of your busy days to interview artists and talk about music!
Next album? Nothing is planned yet. Just last month I started recording a completely different kind of music, in a genre I've not explored before, and so far it is proving to be a really nice sonic vacation! I'm not sure if it is really "Minorarc" or something separate quite yet. Music can take you to unexpected places.