Some websites are passing away, and valuable historical information is lost. One of the website that is gone is “psybient.net”. Thanks to the web.archive.org we managed to recover a few interviews and we are happy to continue our “Archive” series. Today we present you the lost interview with Matthew Hillier (Ishq).
Author: Radoslaw Bialek
Date: 9th of August 2007
Do you remember the moment in your life when the music become important for you?
Well I was always very into the music, recording it on tapes, etc. My grandfather was a heavy duty record collector so I had an influence early on to all sorts of music. He was a pretty cool grandfather and had stuff like Pink Floyd and Zappa in his collection and everything in between. I really got into making music though after hearing some of the early psychedelic stuff, Pink Floyd, Gong, etc., and also the first Ozric Tentacles album which came at a time when I was getting into “getting into” music. I was surrounded by a few people who were into psychedelics and going inward and one night I kind of went inside the music. It’s a bit tricky to explain but one day music was music and the next day it was another world inside my head or a whole new universe. What I do now is all coloured by this and music in this setting and with this experience in mind.
Do you had any musical education?
No formal education in music but a fair bit of reading, listening and learning and experimentation. A lot of exploration and experimentation.
In the past you were involved in club music like house. What induced you to take such a revolution way to turn into ambient?
I burnt out in the late 90’s from a fast lifestyle and to much up and little down. Jacqui moved to Cornwall partly because of the same thing and I followed some time later. I gave up on the dance music side as it wasn’t working for me and just got more into slowing down and the idea of music as a harmonising frequency.
Did this have any particular connection with the revolution that was made with your entire life? With revolution as a person? If so, then who were you at that time, and who were you later, finally – who are you now?
It’s all connected. I moved to a place which had a lot of silent spots and no scene and a lot of solitude and I just got into that space. In Cornwall things move slower and stillness tends to make humans go more inward. I just started going more inward and slowed down and this effected the music I made and then the music I made effected me more. It’s a nice positive feedback loop which I needed at the time… I was very into the frenetic dance scene in the late 80’s and through the 90’s. And all the things that go with it but burned out after some very indulgent times. I just went to fast and didn’t slow down and eventually something had to give and did. We moved to Cornwall and I then got more into chilling and a lot of different spiritual teachings and had a period of slowing down and reflection and now? I am much the same as before, but maybe I found my boundaries and know myself a bit more.
How did you discovered ambient? Tell me about your musical path till discovering this kind of expression.
I grew up with a mix of punk/ska/mod/chart music and all sorts really until I reached about 16 and then I got heavily into psychedelic music. At some point I bought an old guitar and progressed from listening to “having a go” via home keyboards, guitar fx and weird sound making device, I bought an old AKAI reel to reel and made strange sound collage and just experimented for fun. During this time I started to explore the idea of making multi track music and brought a better synth and Atari at a time when people like The Orb, Mixmaster Morris, Pete Namlook and others were just getting going and I started to get into ambient music plus the dance music which at the time was just coming to the surface in the UK.
What is in ambient music that you love it? Infinite space, free?…
Well, ambient can be anything maybe or frees you up to go anywhere and do anything. I just love the fact there’s no rules and it is limitless. I love beatless drifting listening late at night in a horizontal fashion and that’s kind of the position and time a lot of my music’s made for and really where my hearts at. I just love the freedom with the style or term ambient but the fact you can add beats, cycles and explore.
Is ambient just music or something more than music? Maybe we shouldn’t compare ambient with other styles of music? If the sounds bring us some kind of visions then is it still the music in the traditional sense?
All music I feel is something more than just music but what it is for us to imagine sound is life for sure – maybe brought worlds and cosmos into being, maybe god is a tone, maybe I am going too deep! But ambient is music but can also be the way to capture a time and space, an energy, it’s a vehicle maybe into other worlds, into our imagination which all sounds very cheesy but what if that were possible? It wouldn’t be cheesy then but world changing, but then so many things can act as this. I think even the most traditional forms of music could do this though. Ambient maybe represents the stiller more eternal side of our nature or the soul or is a good vehicle to express this side of our nature. Ambient as a word has however had a hard time, Eno started it with the idea of music which “fitted” in with its surroundings and didn’t take over the space one was sitting in and which could be listened to actively or played whilst you did the dishes and still have an effect on the “ambience” of the space your in. Maybe ambient is more about creating time and space using sounds than a “human” piece of music.
In the ambient scene Matt Hillier is described as a real master, even a genius, however you always will be a usual artist, who create. On who you are to follow the example? Who are your masters?
Well master and genius are very flattering and also like 12 feet deep holes waiting for the artist to disappear in, so I avoid these ideas a little; it’s really nice but no good for my ego to think I actually mastered anything. I follow the old saying by the painter Paul Lake: “Always be the beginner”. It’s cool to get respect like this but an uncomfortable tag for me. All the artists I meet and heard have given me a buzz on some level and could be seen as masters. There’s to many masters to name or people who shined for a moment and who created something inspiring for me. I would love to list them all but I can’t unless you want a list of about 30 or 40 people. What really inspires me is the ones who invent a new form of sound or style or the ones who maybe take chances and throw caution to the wind.
Tell me more about your creative inspiration.
Well another deep question or a simple one. The simple answer is everything, in the past, present and future. All things, love mostly and esoteric ideas.
What about feeling sometimes that you want to create something but you can’t?
Well I kind of embraced my inability to some degree, I would love to compose like a classical composer or like many artists I know somedays as I love what different people do so much but generally I don’t get a frustrated feeling of not being able to do a particular thing. I rarely create in to much of a deliberated way, chance and my own simplistic approach or way of composing give it some of its character so I try and embrace limitations. If I find myself trying an idea but having my technical ability get between me and a good result I learn a little, try a bit more and then if it doesn’t flow I bin the idea and move on. For me the process is all about effortless creative flow a lot with moments of hard work. Maybe when somethings hardwork one school of thought suggests your trying to hard and trying to do something meant for another time and space or trying to do something your not here to do. When your tapped in you can feel it in the creative process as everything just flows, slots together and in a very strange effortless way. I avoid trying to do what I can’t I guess and just let my natural abilities dictate what I do. I don’t imagine music before I make it so much but let the imagination and process work at the same time and the music kind of reveals itself or it feels like this.
How are your compositions born?
Through the chance meeting between myself and the universe would be a lofty description but it feels a little like this, though chance is a tricky one it’s often a spontaneous process and not that preconceived. I’ll just turn on gear, start having fun and a form makes itself known, it’s rarely a very deliberate process though with Ishq I use deliberate methods and techniques which have become the sound people link with Ishq.
How long can you create in one session when you’re in the studio?
It varies from 3 or 4 hours up to about 12 but I find to long on one project on one day can mean you start to alter the work to much and lose the positive energy needed due to your perception of it shifting. I tend to work in 4-8 hours bursts a lot with occasional very late night sessions.
Can you tell me about an example of track or tracks that was (if it’s true) created in one session?
I never did one track in a session and the process I use is that I work on usually 3 tracks at a time which each have different feels, and which I juggle. When I am into going deep I switch to the deep one. When I need to liven up I go into more cyclic projects and I juggle these in relation to my tiredness of them. I do quick hits on them or sessions and leave to settle. I have tried to do “one session” music but I can’t. I’m to fussy and also I like the way a track you start and leave a month matures in your imagination and to your ears. I have stuff for the new Ishq album that’s been worked on over 4 years maybe 10 times in that time and each time I come back to it it’s changed and matured, feels new again and it’s really a strange process. Working on music in this way gives a quality to the music which can’t be got writing a track from start to finish or in a week. It’s just how it works out for me.
When you create ambient music do you have any signpost? Do you obey rules when creating?
Maybe the music I heard and love is a signpost but I try to avoid to many rules though I have guidelines I use when writing a typical Ishq track. I’m not so keen on rules in a creative enviroment as it can lead to one dimensional products being made rather than creatively free musical works. I love the freedom to go anywhere with music and creativity.
Do you need a specify inspiration to record samples that will be connected to your conception?
Not really, often things just happen, a situation occurs and I find the process taking place. I collect data, samples, ideas I find interesting and at a later date these find their way into works.
Were all of the samples of nature that you use recorded directly by you?
No, some are mine and some from libraries or by others, some off TV, some are synthesised, etc.
We know that you take an enormous inspiration from nature, but what else inspires you and what in nature is for you the most beautiful thing?
Love and beauty and harmony is the simple reply though what are they? Life I guess and seeing each generation rise up and evolve, enjoy life more and dissolve boundaries, share with one another, etc. I am inspired by music that supports this process or initiates it and that’s a big inspiration for me but that’s also part of nature, to be part of that process, make music which brings people together and maybe talks to the heart and mind a little and reminds us of the often forgotten nature of ourselves… Love maybe is all the above again. The most beautiful thing in nature for me is the process of life, there no one thing that stands out. I’m partial to the odd flower though or drifting landscape. Clouds are also a great feature of nature but life as whole is beautiful.
What do you think is the “go-between” when a person creates – their heart or mind?
Both, hand in hand. Maybe their soul. I’m not fully sure but mind, body and soul are all elements. Soul + personality + everything we ever were or will be.
Let’s back to the past. How did the project Ishq evolve?
Well, by chance in some form, I wrote fluid earth and needed an artist name. I was reading a book about a guys travels into the world of Sufism and found the word “ishq”. I wrote Ishq down with a few others and then I wrote the track “Bhakti”. About a week later I was going over names and Ishq jumped out, after listening to “Bhakti”. I then looked into the meaning of the word Ishq and it felt right and an idea formed for this as a project.
What is your favourite Matt Hillier’s composition?
“Bhakti” in the sense it was the track that opened the door for me really into labels and the support they gave me but musically “Sol” maybe – I like those for the heart and emotion they captured but I love the more unusal trippy soundscapes equally as I’m a bit of a frustrated film maker or landscape painter some days making music. Music for me is very visual and also a bit like painting space and time. I ebb and flow with what I am into, somedays I can’t get into the emotional side of the music and go much more into experimentation and other days that sides just to weird.
Your work is from the one side easy do define – it’s ambient, but from the second side – you are creating something rare that it’s hard to describe with the words. Do you think that this is the biggest praise for an artist that his work can’t be described and is its necessary to feel it oneself?
Any compliment is very nice and rares a nice compliment. I think the biggest praise is just knowing people are listening to it and being inspired in some way. It’s nice that so many people have related to the feelings in the music and vision, really nice. The biggest praise often is from just knowing one other person made sense of what the music communicates.
It is a good for you to collaborate with other artists?
Collaboration is always good for me. The difficulty is often a logistic one: you can send files and share sounds via web and mail but things can get lost in translation and so its always hard – sometimes things just flow and sometimes more work is required. It’s a process of juggling ideas and files with others until a track takes shape. It’s always nice to make music with other people as it takes some sharing and also it’s a great way to connect with others.
The “Elemental Journey” album, that was recorded by you and Matt Coldrick, was created via internet. This kind of situation we have more. Digital Mystery Tour and H.U.V.A. Network are also examples of this – we could say that these projects live in the internet. Does this make it more difficult a process or easier?
Most of the collaborations I have done apart from those with Jake Stephenson were done with myself and the other artist miles apart which does create a dynamic and also sometimes a difficulty. With Matt Coldrick it was an instant working method, I created sounds and sections / ideas and sent them via mail and Matt composed and added to this and formulated them into often something totally unexpected by me and very cool, the result was the album “Elemental Journey” and the process was very fluid. It is very different from being in a studio with someone else, slightly more interested sometimes as you never know what the other artist will send back.
Without you, the second person involved with Ishq is Jacqueline Kersley. We have her vocals on “Orchid”. How did you meet her? Who is she for you? What is her function in the label and in your artistic work?
Jacqueline’s both a mate and long term partner as well as the voice of Ishq or the main female vocal element. She takes care of the business side or the music or helps me keep track of the money issues and kind of keeps me sane also somedays and is a great grounding person. She is really the female aspect within Ishq and her vocal qualities and character make up much of the female otherworldly ness of Ishq.
Do you create in your free time or maybe composing is your main pastime and in your free time you are doing something totally different? What do you do when you are not creating?
The music is my daily work now from earlier this year (until then I was writing outside and around other work / jobs and on the odd day off or weekends, etc.). My free time really is made up of walking / wandering, chilling outside when the weather’s ok and watching films, endless study of music technology and some reading and of cause then the daily late night music listening.
How often do you perform at festivals?
I do about 3 shows a year but I don’t make music with the live area in mind. I don’t do loads of gigs. If I do more dance stuff again or beat music I will but Ishq and Virtual are more music for personal space and so I don’t push that side much right now. The Ishq stuff I find hard to “perform” as people generally feel like dancing when at parties and out and Ishq just isn’t that type of music. Ishq as a music is really for people in there own space and so doesn’t quite fit in with what’s currently popular at events. When people are out they like to party and Ishq is more inward. It can work at the right setting and time but it’s hard to do beatless and deeper music when so much of the scene is about beats, basses and people having a good time. Much upbeat music is about outward expression where as a lot of what I do is about inward reflection right now. When I get into beat mode again I will probably get a latex leotard and get into being a performer more but I just don’t make music right now which is for that time and space that much.
How does an Ishq performance look?
To be true: most of my live shows are more like one man and laptop. We can’t afford to or even begin to take the music as Ishq perform it in the proper sense as chill out stages and spaces usually have a small budget and I would have to pack up the studio every time we play. The music I write as Ishq just relies on something which can’t be translated live or which doesn’t work. I can’t jam an Ishq track without it sounding wrong where as a dance track I can alter in a million ways and it sounds cool. I’m not really into building a band either to perform the music. I just like making it freely and enjoying that. I’m not really a stage orientated person unless I am DJing dance music or playing more upbeat music. I may evolve the live side of stuff someday with more real playing but I will probably write material specifically and partly with a view to live performance when I do.
Which of the festivals do you have a special feeling for?
Best festivals for me are Sunrise Festival this year and Samothraki was magical and a really good one as was Solclipse in Turkey in 2006 when it stopped raining. The planetarium gig in San Francisco was also very magical as people were their to go inward and the one I did at Dakini Nights was totally unique, very magic people and scene in Tokyo.
Do you play tracks that were created especially for the festival and material which people won’t hear anywhere else?
Yes. Ishq “live” is me playing partly remixed and overdubbed Ishq tracks with usually 1 or 2 live synth parts aswell live. I usually have one device I play live on stage but not always, sometimes it just a laptop. It’s often a unique mix of unique overdubbed and alternative mixes of tracks. We are preparing a FTP space online where people can download all our unreleased remixes and live sets plus a few other goodies.
What is the most important thing for the artist in your opinion?
To be true to themselves and create what they wish and not what market or another dictates to much and to always retain a degree of invention and exploration so we can continue to create new forms of music and evolve. Be free and enjoy making music for fun and love and share it. That’s what’s important for me.
Do you want to create music for films like many other artists want? Or maybe ambient was and is your main goal?
No, film music I can’t see myself doing and it doesn’t appeal to me. I like more the idea that they put the film to the music. I may be tempted by the promise of riches but I would maybe find the process restrictive. I may end wanting to rework the movie also.
When will you be the fulfilled artist? Is there any criterion according to you that it will end your journey as an artist? Will you be creating till death?
When – probably you never are, but in some sense I am already. I questioned this a while back as the longer you make music and play the game of the music business the more you realise it’s all an illusion in some sense. I made one piece of music that another person heard and which maybe shared something with them and in some ways I think that’s the best we can hope for. I’ve no set out destination except to keep sharing harmony if I can and also my own odd self indulgent visions of imaginary worlds.
It’s difficult to find a lot of information about you and your reflections about music, etc. Is this a deliberate choice that others receive your art without any other visions from you?
Yes, it’s fairly deliberate but also I don’t get asked to much for interviews or stuff so it just happened this way. I could have looked for promotion and done the whole PR campaign but I like to have things feel natural rather than forced. I do feel that on some occasions a lack of face to put to the music can mean people focus more on the music. Sometimes it irritates people, sometimes it seems to make them view the music with an air of otherness, their not fully sure about who Ishq is so not fully sure quite what the music is about or what it is and then the listener begins to become part of the magic of music, they create and invent and imagine also. There’s magik involved in many processes we take for granted and much to be said for doing little and letting force do the work inline with karma and causality, but it’s not a hugely intentional scheme to create mystery, just the way it evolved. I was never asked to do an interview until now also!
Are you really a mysterious man?
No, I don’t think so and never intended to be. (I’m not a mystery to me anyway). I do like some anonymity and I’m not really comfortable with to much artistic promotion or promoting “myself” as “the” artist or creator or the music. I was never one of PR, hard sell and talking up the music via words or to much of my own imagery. It’s just my approach when I have tried to do the whole bio, photo, artist bit it often feel superficial it’s just easier to make the music and let that do the work. It’s just nice to remain a little removed or semi detached, not the best way to sell music or yourself but the way I feel comfortable with. We are getting a little more “professional” and doing a discography and stuff as we get asked for it a lot but it will no doubt remain vague.
When I was on the Virtual website I saw that the third CD will be Ishvara’s “Magik Square Of The Moon”, but there is no longer any information about it. Was something changed in your conception?
Virtual is a series of CDs I’ve been working on since 1997. 13 in total called the Virtual world series – each CD is an imaginary painting of another world or trip / journey. The series is fairly flexible. “Magik Square Of The Moon” is actually almost ready to release but I have decided to release another work before this as it felt right and also things are morphing from day to day. I removed all details as they are mutable as is my imagination over time but the images of the album covers are definate works in motion and the best way to predict what’s happening. Since we retired from day jobs this has become our main work and Virtual is eventually going to be releasing regular stuff.
How does your new album sound and how it is in comparison with your older works?
I’m working on various Virtual projects which are all somewhere between “Magik Square Of The Sun” and “Infinite Garden” and also some deeper and more “outerspaced”. There’s also more beats in some stuff were doing. In relation to Ishq I have for a good while been writing a follow up to “Orchid” which I started work on again last year and which will be are major album after some Virtual albums in 2007. Soundwise the next Ishq album follows on from “Orchid” in a very similar style and feel, a mix of more melodic and harmony than Virtual releases, more of Jacqui’s voice and energy and just more of the Ishq feeling. Our next Ishq album will be a blast back to the original Ishq style.
Your most recognized incarnation is Ishq and the projects connected with your label – Ishvara and Elve. There are many people that wish to hear more sounds from Matt Hillier. So which of your past projects without Ishq/Ishvara/Elve will you recommend them?
Alien Mutaion Vs. Indigo Egg – microcosm macrocosm done with Jake Stephenson in 1997. Crystal Moon – done with Jake and Jon Sharp from Kinetix Records. Absolute Ambient – “Elemental Journey” with Matt Coldrick. I also did a few bits with Kinetix and Jake; Bass Meditation – “Symbiosis EP”. Plus an I early dance 12″ as Octave Doctor called “Genetic Interface” on Kinetix Records and me and Jake released a white label years back called Forces Of Technology which you may find on eBay on Jake’s old label – Ambient Space Acid.
You are releasing each CD in limited edition of 500 copy, so you are not receiving much of the money from it.
Were not making much money off music but I just heard a few artists and labels say “join the club”. This is the nature of the game but we may sell more in the future if we wish. I am happy to keep it small right now as it’s easier for us this way and me and Jacqui aren’t so good with numbers and stuff. We make a living between CD sales, other labels and some studio engineering I do.
Do you have a “normal” work?
Well up until May I was working here and there and have been for years in all manner of jobs (you name it I have done it). Jacqui also. It’s how we survived and despite working with great labels and very good people
it remains hard to make money from music unless you knockout music on a regular basis. Music making is now our normal job I guess – Virtual and all the other projects we have on the go.
What’s a usual day in the life of Matt Hillier?
I don’t think there is one, it varies, somedays it 9-5 in studio and somedays I get lost in other things.
Could you tell me your plans and dreams for the next months and 2008 year?
Main plan is keep releasing on Virtual as much as possible plus finish one major Ishq album hopefully in 2008 all being well.
For the end please deliver some words to your fans.
Thanks for supporting the music, sharing it with friends, playing it and all the kind words and positive feedback and expect lots of new music. Keep an eye our for new works and join us at ishq.org or v-i-r-t-u-a-l-w-o-r-l-d.com. If you like the music please keep buying it but equally feel free to share it (as sharing is a future) and watch out for the blue meanies. (Who now seem to come in every colour of the rainbow).