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
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
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.