Interview with Matt Hillier (ishq / ishvara / elve)


Matt is a main persona behind many otherworldly musical projects, some of which are “ishq”, “ishvara”, “elve”, “Indigo Egg” and many other old, new and upcoming. Based in Cornwall, UK, he is creating immersive sound journeys since early 90’ies with emphasis on creating Aural landscapes and less on traditional formulas.

Interview is made by Y. Nondual on 19/04/2017, edited by Fuluf

Hello Matt, and thank you for taking time to share some insights into ishq and plethora of aliases behind it. Let’s dive right in:

Q: It is quite astonishing how many albums you released in past few years alone. How did it happen?

A:Its largely an accumulation of hard work and many hours spent creating sounds and music over many years .Most composers end up with a large amount of unreleased material and my attitude was always that musical works are better released than kept on hard drives and that’s one reason why i started Virtual as i felt i needed an outlet for a lot of material that was very hard to release at the time via other labels  .It was also the best way i could self sustain financially being an artist working full time and so i focused more on releasing a lot of work and flowing ,  i did not really anticipate releasing quite so much music as i have and it has it’s pros and cons but that’s life.

Q: You are sorting your music in few categories, there’s “virtual space”, “virtual light”, “ektaphone”, ishq main albums, etc.. what goes behind these different themes.

A:Initially i had only planned to release on a label called ‘Virtual‘ and at the early stages it was to be a label for just the immersive electronica like ‘Magick square of the sun‘ and the ‘elve‘ albums but slowly other material evolved and some was deeper and darker and some more minimal and stilling and I felt it did not all fit on one label so I create what I called ‘series‘ but which are really sub labels. ‘Virtual world‘ is the main Virtual label really, ‘Virtual light‘ is for the more meditative and stilling holistic works and was and still is designed really more for energetic work with sound and healing or harmonising of the listener. ‘Virtual space‘ is the sci-fi geek in me and me writing soundscapes for headphone listeners a lot and painting strange worlds with sound.There is a 4th and final sub label called ‘Virtual form‘ that starts up soon I hope and which will release the dance (kind of) music I have worked on for many years and never seem to release and it will also be a vehicle for other kinetic forms of music i have been working on including older style Idm and Electronica.

Q: Light Synthesis Trust. I have seen few mentions of this almost mythical establishments in relation to ishq persona. Does it exist or was it ever, or it is lost on the outskirts of shambhala?

A:  This was something I imagined a long time ago and some how it found its way online but I am sure it exists in the imaginary dimension and the idea behind Light synthesis trust is still there in my head and relates to the symbol of a triangle hiding a sun and 7 rays which relate to various things in an esoteric sense. Someday I may expand on it or write about the ideas etc and influences which can be summed up by the symbol of the prism refracting white light into 7 colours and the artist as a prism doing the same using sound or colour.

Q: There is a lot of field recording material in your music, do you record any of it yourself, if yes then do you have some memorable adventures with a recorder?

A: I recorded and still record a lot of found sound but I also work with many other sources of material as I am very much more working as a Synthesist than a traditional musician. For me the idea is really about the end result of what’s creating and how effective that is on the listener and so I am happy to use any source I feel contributes to the end result.

I have many memorable adventures: One recently was at the Guildford Castle where I was sat and having some lunch and a group of 3 Japanese tourists came along and sat down and began talking in a lovely language and it mixed with the natural sounds in a really great way and I happened to have a recorder on me so got 3 minutes of them and birds and sounds from the city backdrop which formed its own world in a way.

Q: Apart from deep psychedelic journeys that your music paint, in my opinion your music has spiritual undertone, do you have some spiritual principles or dogmas that you follow?

A: No Dogmas really or fixed beliefs. I have read a lot over the years and I found it’s best to keep an open mind and one that’s not to polarized, depending on which project I am working on my intention changes and it’s very hard to put into words what influences me especially in a ‘spiritual‘ sense, with the main Ishq work it’s about making work that triggers the emotional nature in us as humans in ways that I choose not to do when working on the deeper abstract stuff a lot. Some of what I do is purely self indulgent exploration of sound and some of it has a deeper inspiration and also deeper intention and relates much more to ideas based around the idea of soul or spiritual nature  and remembrance of this through music.

Its another deep subject which is very hard to define in words :)

Q: There’s a wonderful album called Colourform – Visions of Surya which is written by you and Jake Stephenson. Can you talk about this person a little bit and about that time when you were writing music together

A: Jake was a record dealer me and a few friends met in the early 90’s , he was the local distributor of very early idm and acid music as well as obscure new labels at the time like Fax, Rephlex, Warp etc  and over time I got to know him as a friend. At the time I met him me and some friends were playing around with sound a lot in a very experimental way and by that point Jake already had a small studio and was releasing music and it was him who made me realise I could have a studio and do the same. Eventually I began writing music using a lot of gear I bought and we began to work together and he arranged my first releases with Kinetix etc and we did that pretty much until he left this reality.

Jake was a very fluid person in some respects and creatively very loose, he was really into jamming music and just enjoying the process I think more than anything and he was very easy to work with in that respect, much of what we did back then was live and very spontaneous and in the spirit of exploration and as you can probably hear in much of it we were not so worried about creating perfect art but more just exploring and capturing a moment.

Q: Until Facebook and the Internet became that popular and forced musicians to become engaged with their audience to get noticed, there was much more mysticism surrounding artists as you couldn’t find any information about them. Do you feel this affected Ishq in any way?

A: Not really sure, mystery is magic, you remove the mystery and things feel less magical in some respects to me, I noticed how this changed so much with music and art as social media in particular kicked in, part of what enchants us about art is the sense it’s from something unseen or unknown.

I personally try and find a middle way but I prefer to keep the focus on the work as it’s just more comfortable that way for me and really I am more a composer exploring sound than an artist/performer and so I do not feel that effected by social media or forced to engage with it. I am lucky enough to have a small following of people who supported me and I still believe that if the work/art you do is essentially true to yourself then it finds its way to people naturally but it’s another very deep subject.

Q: How do you envision (nearly) perfect live performance of Ishq, gear setup, video mapping, dance performance etc..

A: I am much more into the idea of installation right now and using sound and light to create an environment really and the use of VR and surround sound + light to create a space or environment that encourages the listener into an altered state but that’s because most of my music suits that right now.

Ideally I would be more involved in creating an environment or experience with my name associated with it but this is really as I am not 100% a performer right at present with the music I released to date due to the nature of my music to date being quite introverted.

If I ever release more upbeat music then I would flip that and go fully theatrical possibly but strange and not to serious, voodoo style maybe and a light show like Pink Floyd 1969, simple use of strobe and back light and uplighting to cast shadow, I think lighting is better when its simple, it would have to be in a very dark space, only at night, maybe a pitch black gig would be novel with just a tiny low light strobe effect Gear wise it would have to have the Labyrinth festivals sound system as that’s an insane sounding system and I would need some £300,000 mixer and plenty of gear, some weird costume with fancy headdress and stage props but its a lot of work isn’t it to look stupid? I like the idea of raising energy at events but you need the music to front that kind of show and again I would probably place more emphasis on the space and ritual of the event and make the focus 360 degree rather than toward just ‘me‘.

Q: What was your muse of times of orchid, what was your muse of times of Ishvara and Elve and what is your muse now?


A: The muse never changes really and for me its multi faceted and its more which one I choose to channel in a way, with Orchid and some of the other main Ishq releases its much more soul inspired if that’s the term you want to use, Ishvara is a bit more the interplanetary sci-fi geek in me and the muse for Elve is much more the natural world and aspects of it etc and my relationship to it.

Q: You did few collaborative albums. The ones I can remember now are collaborations with Spatialize, Metamatics and Pan Electric. Do you enjoy collaborating when writing music and in your experience is it possible to do it over the wire or the best results comes when you sit in the same studio

A: Collaboration is always interesting and probably easier when sat in the same room with someone and when it’s done in a spirit of experimentation, then it’s good fun, it becomes more difficult if you’re trying to get a specific end result or style and it’s very much dependant on the people involved, it can be tricky at times if you share different visions or levels of perfectionism but it’s healthy to challenge ourselves as artists and i also feel to work with other people .

Q: If you could collaborate with anyone, who would it be?

A:  so many great artists,  it’s very hard to say as I don’t have that sense that because I love someone’s work it would be good to work with them or get drawn to work with them for that reason, I really can’t think of anyone more than anyone else, everyone I worked with I was lucky enough to have resonated with in some way and the end result felt true so the answer is really anyone time permitting! .

Q: Jacqueline Kersley is mentioned as part of Ishq, what is her part in this project?

A: Jacqueline was and remains really the voice of Ishq and provided all the original vocal material for the main 3 Ishq albums except for on one or 2 tracks, she also worked closely with me on Virtual and ran aspects of the label and she has worked on her own music on and off but as she is a mother it’s been hard for her to find the time to finish that work but I think it will be released sometime.

Q: What’s your hands-on creative process like?

It tends to vary from project to project, the more structured the music I am working on the more I tend to work slower and in a more focused and deliberate way but I work always in quite a spontaneous way and often throwing paint at the canvas and seeing what sticks, I never work with an end ideal in mind or seeking any fixed end result really and so often what ends up coming out is like nothing I could imagine. My creative process is much more one of revealing through chance and random acts than one of imagining an idea and seeking to construct it as I always found that less interesting and a little like banging your head against a wall :)

Q: Do you have any tips for staying focused and creative in the studio?

It’s probably easier to consider why we become unfocused and feel less creative, distractions are a bad thing, my studio has zero web now, no phone, no TV, it’s very isolated and I found that totally focused me, I personally need to be focused on finishing music or I will literally end up homeless so that’s also been a good way to get focused :)

As far as keeping the creative energy up there’s a lot of tricks but it has a natural biorhythm to it also which we should accept and not take personally as ‘wrong‘, listening to music by others can help fire the imagination but also hinder at times or distract, taking in energy is essential, 4 hours bursts, taking breaks etc, the creative process is very much like breath, you need to consider what’s inspiring you, your intention, some sources of energy as an artist are shallow and soon dry up, some intentions for making art can be shallow and they soon dry up, some sources are infinite, timeless and they are the best place to tap into creative energy but a lot of its in the imagination or ability to drop the logical and rational mentality, I should mention sexual energy also? Sexual energy is creative energy, we can choose to release that energy as we like through the body but we can also channel it into our art at times and there is a lot to be said for sexual tension energetically as a means to drive the creative self and managing that energy internally and circulating and not depleting that internal creative force to much.

It comes back to feeling inspired a bit with creative work and it’s important to finish work and ground it in some respects or you can become despondent or obsessive or over self critical and create a creative block, you have to love what you do above all else and I think an aspect of that is moving beyond being to polarised in likes and dislikes musically, its best to be open I find, it’s a non duality I am talking about that means as an artist you become more open, less judgemental of others art and in doing so less judgemental of your own work and as a result your creative energy flows way way more and people sense this openness in your work but that all sounds quite serious and its not, enjoy the process, always try and leave the process or creative session without any negative mentality or accept its one of ‘those days‘, you have good days and not so good days, the creative process does have naturally highs and lows, some days I personally feel like pressing delete on everything and some days happy with what I do and over time you learn that perspective and perception and the mind in particular are a bastard at times and deceptive, the mind can play games with you and it’s why I personally found detachment mentally and encouraging a mindset that’s quite child-like a good place to be, that way you have fun, let go and flow. But at the same time at some point some focus and deliberation is needed if your to ground work and release it.

Trying to hard or trying to realise an ideal is the quickest way to kill your energy, Perfectionism for me kills the soul of art often and also the spirit that drives my own creative desire and also comparing and competing is another aspect of the human nature I find can

Turn off the flow of creative energy, trying to please people is another way often artists get stuck or blocked, it’s why the art is really to do what you will… let go and have fun… we can learn virtually everything we need to know from children with regard to this subject.

Q: Do you have a favourite piece of equipment in your studio right now?

3 favourites are the Korg Kronos, Korg Z1 and Roland Vsynth but I also work on some projects almost 100% with software now as that allows a certain sound you struggle to get with hardware. My favourite equipment is probably my sample library as I work a lot with recombinant processes and resampling my own material and equipment and if I had to choose one thing to keep it would be my sample library as its very unique to me and makes up a large part of my sound. 2 of the synths mentioned above are used as sample processors really more than synths for instance most of the time .

Q: Do you play any instruments? And if yes, which one you pick the most?

I can pick up and get a sound out of most things but largely not a sensible sound like a player would, I am not really a player, every now and then I consider learning to ‘play‘ but I think I am more what Fsol called a synthesist, it’s like keyboards, I can make harmony and melody but I am not a player ,

My instrument is really the particular workflow and set of gear I choose in a particular session to work with and I change my setup almost completely from release or project to project in some sense working with multiple sequencers and different hardware setups so I don’t get fixed into one workflow. That’s another good way to keep creative by changing your workflow a bit and trying new gear and processes and sequencers. My instrument is really the studio.

Q: What is some of the good music you enjoyed lately?


A: On the ambient front  all the Txt recordings releases and Carpe Sonum releases, a lot of Atom and No-ware records releases also. Plaid are always a favourite, been diving into a lot of work by Donato Dozzy and Peter van hoesen, John Tejada, Delsin records stuff, Joey Anderson , I listen to a lot of Techno,  I listen back also to a lot of older music and a varied mix of music from jazz to classical and all sorts in between.


Q: What is next on the line from virtual records?

A: a couple of mini CDR box sets are coming out and then some Virtual world releases + 2 Ektaphone releases and 2 Ishq albums which follow on from the Summer light etc and work much more with melody and harmony again, then I hope to release the first Virtual Form release later in the year and some of the new kinetic music.

I am never fully sure what’s next as I work on so many things at once but I have a lot of older Ishq melodic works to finish and kinetic music I really want to finish so the aim is to kind of ease right off the ambient work after the next burst of releases and shift into a few of the new projects like Mbuki Mvuki etc and Polyrhythmi and get back to where I started a bit with Ishq.

Q: Thank you for this, any last comments you can add:

A: Just thanks to everyone for listening to the music and supporting me over the years and enjoy life in this mad world .

If you are interested in staying up to date with what is happening with Ishq, visit his website here.

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