the leading labels of the New Age music scene, Real Music keeps their
sonic vision strong with the 2013 CD release of Aqua Essence
by Amberfern. Inspired in part by Englands New
Forest National Park, Clive Brooks chose the name Amberfern,
in praise of the forest woodlands which turn amber colors in the autumn.
An organic mix of healing, instrumental music, AquaEssence is
built around what Amberfern calls electronic ecology,
featuring a cross section of piano, synth keyboards, light percussion
and guitars, which combines for a veritable garden of sonic delights.
Throughout this CD, you can really feel and hear how influenced Amberfern
is by the coastline landscape and oceanic environment in which he
these days lives and works. Although Amberfern plays Martin D-28 guitars
and even a Fender Strat, the guitar sounds never intrude as they are
perfectly intertwined into the fabric of sounds that also mixes in
Shakuhachi flute, nylon string guitar, Fender Rhodes, fretless bass
guitars, synthesizers and what Amberfern calls ocean waves.
Recorded and mixed along the Southwest coastline of England, Amberferns
AquaEssence is truly an ocean of serenity and overall, is time
well spent when you want to calm down and chill out from the turbulence
of the often crazy times we live in. www.RealMusic.com
presents an interview with
Clive Brooks, known in the New Age world as AMBERFERN
Can you give the mwe3.com readers the background on the new Amberfern
CD, AquaEssence, for instance when and where the music was
written and recorded and what was the inspiration and motivation behind
the album concept and how does the album compare to your earlier musical
AMBERFERN: My wife and I recently bought a property on Englands
Dorset coast, literally a stones throw from the beach. Its
not until you spend a lot of time next to the ocean that you begin
to notice and appreciate its many moods. I became fascinated by, for
instance, the way that the color of the water changes from a deep
blue, through a whole range of turquoises depending on the way the
sunlight plays upon it. I love the sparkling sun on the ocean in the
early mornings when the beach is quiet and deserted, and in the evenings
as the sun goes down theres a particular few fleeting moments
when the water is fired by what I can only describe as a luminous
silvery-blue as if it is being lit from below. These days, my wonderful
wife and I often fall asleep at night and awake in the morning to
the gentle hiss of the waves breaking on the sandy beach. Its
like a living thing. It sounds just like the ocean is gently breathing
in and out.
So, its things like that which have inspired me to develop AquaEssence.
My intention was to make an attempt to capture some of these beautiful
occurrences in sound. I like to integrate real found sounds into my
music, and there are a number of tracks on the album where my expeditions
along the beach with a portable recorder collecting sounds, have become
sewn into the fabric of the album. One example of this is the track
Avon Beach. I was up very early one morning on the beach
recording the gentle sound of the waves as they came frothing in across
the sands. I tend not to be content with just chucking these sounds
onto tracks for the sake of it, but prefer to carefully weave them
in to the fabric of the music, and so I took the recordings back to
my studio and triggered them from a sampler and then arranged for
them to roll into the track in time with the gentle beat of the composition
so that they became an intrinsic and integral part of it. On the album
sleeve where it talks about what instruments I played, I couldnt
resist adding ocean waves! To me, they really are an instrument.
regard to your question about how AquaEssence compares with
my earlier albums, thats an interesting one. Im currently
working on two different series of albums for Real Music. One series
is called Distant Horizons and each of these albums focuses
on a specific geographic location. The first one was influenced by
the Mediterranean region, where Ive spent a lot of time. The
music reflects that, and gentle Spanish guitars weave through it,
together with ethnic flutes and again, some found sounds. My other
series revolves around earth elements...essences of them. The first
release in the series was Quiescence - A World at Peace. It
was designed as a sampler for the forthcoming series, so there are
a number of musical flavors on the album that reference things that
I will expand on with later releases. For example, Quiescence
sets the scene for for the oceanic vibe of AquaEssence through
tracks such as Misty Harbor, Lights on Water
and Undercurrents. It also offers elements of pastoral
calm, which I shall be exploring in later releases.
mwe3: Can you say something about your working in Englands
New Forest National Park? Where is the park and what is your job there?
How has that park helped shape your music compositions and overall
musical vibe and can you also say something about your early career
work in the music business? I read that you founded a music organization
and actually have a Ph.D. Is the park near where you born and what
are some key stages in your musical evolution and overall career development?
AMBERFERN: Im always looking for peaceful settings to
compose in. Ive never been a city person, preferring quiet and
contemplative places. The New Forest which is in the South of England,
was created a thousand years ago, still new by English standards,
by William the Conqueror as a Royal hunting forest for the pursuit
of deer, and offered just the right vibe for my early compositions.
Its an ancient enclave away from the hustle and bustle of modern
life. Although I spend a lot of my time on the beach these days, I
still visit the forest often. The two extremes provide a perfect contrast.
On the one hand is the green cosiness of the old forest with its agrarian
traditions, wandering ponies, deer, cattle and ancient and ornamental
woodlands. One the other is the widescreen blue beach scene with big
skies, pretty boats, color and sparkling brightness.
The vibe of actual places are intrinsic to all of my compositions.
I like to try to immerse myself in them. I rarely feel inspired within
the confines of the four walls of a studio environment, so I go out.
I take with me a little portable studio which comprises of either
a laptop and a tiny MIDI keyboard or sometimes an iPad, or even a
portable Akai MPC sampler. I will sit with headphones on, looking
at the scene in front of me and try to capture the essence of what
is presented to me in sound. In effect its similar to the way
that a painter would work in the open air, capturing a view. Its
just that I try to do it with sound in an impressionistic way. I call
it my soundsketching. I take these ideas back with me to my studio,
where I develop the ideas into the finished soundpaintings that eventually
make their way onto my albums. My artist page on the Real Music record
company website features a video of me doing soundsketching on a mountaintop
in Deya, Majorca for the Distant Horizons Mediterranean album.
Heres a link to the video:
To answer your question about my early career, Ive always been
interested in music and its all Ive ever done. I used
to teach a range of instruments... guitar, bass, drums and keyboards
and I ended up developing an international network of about 80 rock
schools. I retired from all that a couple of years ago to concentrate
on my Amberfern music career. On the way I gained a PhD. in the use
of emerging online communications technology in business and Ive
written a few books here and there.
mwe3: Can you recall for the mwe3.com readers your first musical
inspirations and exposure to different types of music? What was your
early musical training like and what instruments were key to your
musical progress? Are you primarily a guitarist and what instruments
do you play mostly and do you spend time practicing music or do you
mostly write and record?
AMBERFERN: Since a very early age Ive always been drawn
to music. I think my earliest memories come from messing around with
my cousins old record player in the early 1960s and playing
some of his old 78s that were stacked in a neat rack underneath
it. They were old rock and roll records. I remember one was Little
Richard doing Lucille. I loved those saxophones all blaring
out the riff. I remember being excited
somehow by the whole thing. Something clicked in me right then. A
bit later my dad brought home an old guitar for me that someone at
work had given him, and I started messing with that, and then at school
I started to form bands with friends. We would practice round at our
place, and mum would have to to put up with complaints from the neighbors
all the time. I wound up touring Europe with a band.
Quite early on, I found myself getting bored with playing just one
instrument, and so I taught myself the bass guitar, then drums and
finally keyboards. What drove that was an interest in sound recording.
I can remember sitting in class at school absent-mindedly watching
the spools of an old reel-to-reel tape recorder spinning round, they
were using it to play back something or other in the lesson, and thinking
how exciting it would be to have one of those, and be able to actually
capture my own sounds on it. I soon left behind my early desire to
stand on stages with a band, and began to explore music making through
recording. My parents eventually bought me a beat-up old Fidelity
reel-to-reel machine and I would record ideas for songs on it, but
it was when I got an Akai 4000DS which had a facility on it called
sound on sound that everything changed for me. Sound on
Sound enabled me to record, say, a drum track, then rewind and add
a guitar, then rewind again and add bass and so on. You could do this
process multiple times, but each time, the quality of the recording
would degrade until the whole thing was veiled in a thick mist of
tape hiss, but I loved it, and gradually progressed onto a four channel
multitrack and then to eight track. In fact, I saved up all the money
from my early private music teaching work and built a complete recording
studio in the back of my parents garden, where I would record, not
only my own efforts, but also those of other bands. I learned a tremendous
amount about recording and production that way. It was all very hands-on.
A sort of apprenticeship really.
Anyway, to rewind a bit... By 1972, I was buying albums and gradually
collected all the Beatles releases. I remember that the first
one I saved up for and bought was called A Collection Of Beatles
Oldies and it had songs like She Loves You on it.
The next record I bought was Abbey Road. I remember clearly
finding it really hard to come to terms with the fact that it was
the same group. It sounded so different, so sophisticated and I became
quite fascinated at how a group could develop and change so much.
I experienced exactly the same thing with The Beach Boys. Their early
surf and car releases being a world away from the experimentation
of Pet Sounds. From then on, my own music making was influenced
by that sort of artistic fluidity and the desire for change and experimentation.
It ultimately led me to explore playing a wide range of instruments
from around the world, and ultimately to risk attempting to create
quite diverse thematic albums.
Overall, messing around with sound in a studio is what I love to do.
Im always more attracted to the vibe and feel of a piece of
music than its virtuosity or technical accomplishment. I became interested
in ambient music because of the way it tends to champion feel over
everything else. People often think it all started with Brian Eno,
who I admire very much and who coined the term, but actually theres
a whole century of quite wonderful ambient music waiting to be discovered
that goes from Gustav Mahler, through the wonderful impressionistic
piano pieces of Erik Satie and encompasses Claude Debussy and then
goes ever onwards towards Steve Reich, Brian Eno and the early New
Age minimalism of the Windham Hill label in the early 1980s
and on to Real Music, who are the world leaders in New Age nowadays.
Its a long musical journey that led me to where I am now.
your question about what instruments I play and whether Im primarily
a guitarist... well, I suppose I personally think of myself as a music
producer who primarily plays a sound recorder. I have no particular
special affinity with any one specific musical instrument these days.
I simply use them as tools to create the recorded music, much the
same as a carpenter will have a whole array of tools to build a beautiful
piece of furniture. Its the finished piece of furniture that
matters, rather than the chisels, saws, drills and so on that shaped
and molded it, and, for me, its the same with music. Having
said that, I do enjoy playing musical instruments and have amassed
quite a collection over the last thirty years or so.
mwe3: Would you describe your music as being New Age music?
What role does music play in healing and dealing with psychological
stress and trauma? These days, with so much illness created by stress
related ailments, its not surprising to see people turning to
healing or New Age type music but I guess that is nothing new! Can
you also say how you became involved with Real Music and what role
does Real Music play in the music world of 2013? Do you think people
have become psychologically jaded and have given up on things like
world peace and global warming solutions and what role can music play
in healing the planet?
AMBERFERN: If you define New Age music as being a genre in
which the feeling or the effect that a piece produces is more important
than the instruments and structure of its creation, then you can count
me in. I rather think that increasingly the term New Age is being
used as something of a hub to integrate a variety of different types
of music. The ambient tradition that weve been talking about
is merely one spoke of the wheel leading out from this hub. Another
is chillout music which here in Europe, is absolutely massive. Another
is world music. Another is cool, smooth jazz. What all these sub-genres
have in common from the perspective of the New Age ideology is their
ability to generate a relaxing, soothing reaction in listeners.
I think that in todays fast-paced, technologically-driven, money-led
world, more and more people are seeking peace, even though they may
not perhaps even realize it. Im not necessarily talking about
physical environmental or geographical peace, but rather inner peace...
a private space where we can go to and try to still the incessant
thinking and mental noise that our minds tend to always want to uncontrollably
generate. To reach this nirvana, some people gravitate towards expensive
health spas, others take themselves off on long-haul holidays to exotic
places, whilst others have found that the simple and low-cost act
of listening to appropriate music can function just as successfully
as a doorway into that longed-for sanctuary. I always try to make
music that at least helps to lead people towards that doorway.
People increasingly talk about music as having the unique ability
to mentally heal, and what Ive just explained I try to do with
my own music is my microscopic little contribution to that tradition.
However, it goes much deeper than that, and there have been a number
of scholarly academic studies that have successfully explored ancient
connections between music and healing and the far-reaching philosophical
frameworks that underpin it. Music too has, of course, been absolutely
central to many religious rituals for centuries and we still use it
successfully today in many of those situations. I think in todays
world there are more people than ever seeking personal sanctuary and
inner peace. A good book dealing with this subject in an accessible
way is A New Earth by Eckhart Tolle. Its a blueprint
for a future in which enjoyment and compassion replace desire and
conflict as the core motivating principle for humanity. I enjoy this
book and read it often. It makes a lot of sense in these troubled
I feel sure that music works on many different levels, although I
dont profess to be an expert on the subject. Terence Yallop,
the President of Real Music offers us an interesting way to consider
the value of music
as being useful on a deeper level. He points out that Beyond
the teeming activity of our lives on beloved earth lies a great eternal
Silence. As we pause and listen, the Silence will speak. One of its
wondrous voice is through the language of music. Its a
sentiment youll find printed in the sleeve notes to AquaEssence.
Again, its about reaching an inner sanctuary thats
always there for us, but rarely experienced due to the endless bustle
and noise of life.
Someone who I admire in the music for wellness field is another Real
Music artiste called Liquid Mind. He has developed a tremendously
successful way of helping people using a compositional recipe he calls
Musical Healthcare. Its been used in music therapy
situations the world over. Ten groundbreaking healing albums are on
worldwide release, many of which are more or less permanent fixtures
on the New Age music charts. I recommend checking them out.
Anyway, to return to your question about how I got involved with Real
Music... well, I was originally signed to a small US label, but the
CEO, one John Rawsthorne who I was working very closely with, suddenly
passed away. It was tremendously sad, and without his direction the
label unfortunately ceased to exist. John and I had developed most
of my Quiescence album, and he helped shape the Amberfern sound
in those early days and owe a lot to him. Wed put out a few
promos around the New Age circuit in anticipation of the album release
that had drawn some encouraging interest. One such interested individual
was Suzanne Doucet of Only New Age Music in Hollywood, one of the
most established, leading figures in the genre. She took the tracks
to Terence Yallop, President of Real Music in Sausalito in the Bay
area who, on hearing them, signed me to the label in a ten-album deal.
Ive never looked back since then!
Real Music are the world leader in the New Age genre and have signed
many tremendous artistes including grammy-award winners. Theyre
renowned for the excellence of their roster of international musicians
who have achieved top positions on Billboard magazines New Age
Chart and on iTunes, and added to that, theyre the global leader
for music in the luxury spa and wellness industries. As such, they
play a very important part in the promotion, development and expansion
of New Age music and I consider myself very fortunate to be with them.
mwe3: What guitars and keyboards do you prefer? I know you
have a Martin guitar and Strat guitar. What other guitars and other
instruments are among your favorites and can you say something about
your recording studio, which I hear you call The Green Room...
Ive got a good few different instruments tucked away that have
grown into quite an extensive collection over the decades. I tend
to collect things that work for specific sounds. So, for example,
when it comes to electric guitars I like my Rickenbackers (6 and 12
string) for their bright, clean jangly sound especially though my
elderly Vox AC30. For a little more edge, I have an Epiphone Casino.
If I want to move into a soft jazz vibe, then I pick up an Epiphone
Emperor Regent. My music often calls for acoustic sounds and so my
Martin D28 is something of a staple, but I also enjoy the soft sounds
of my old Alhambra nylon-strung Spanish guitar. Then theres
the good old Fender Strat. If I want something quite different, then
I have a rather beautiful nickel silver National Resophonic Tricone
slide guitar. As far as bass is concerned, I have a Rickenbacker 4001,
a Hofner violin bass, and a very organic-sounding fretless bass, which
has been used on quite a few tracks on my albums, as has my WAV 4
electric upright bass.
Turning to keyboards, I use my Nord Stage for a lot of piano and Rhodes
work on my albums. I use synths mainly to develop soft, gentle pad
sounds and have an Access Virus Polar, an Arturia Origin, a Roland
Gaia, a Nord Wave and a Roland V-Synth. The latter two are particularly
good for sampling into and messing with sounds, which I like to do.
I collect unusual instruments from around the world and enjoy learning
how to play them to a standard good
enough for me to record with. I used an Oud quite extensively on my
mediterranean album and have
a collection of Native American flutes and also a Japanese Shaku,
which Ive recorded a lot with. Ive got congas and a variety
of percussion and enjoy chilling out with a Caisa drum, a version
of the hang drum, which looks like a metal flying saucer. Currently
Im working a lot with a big Japanese koto floor harp which I
restored to record with. The list goes on...
I used to house them all in my Green Room studio in the forest, but
now most of them are here with me at the beach.
mwe3: Some of your music sounds inspired by Mike Oldfield.
What do you think of Oldfields music and can
you hear influences from other artists and if so, what artists then
and now do you prefer to gain inspirations from, both as a music lover
and a multi-instrumentalist / composer?
I have always liked Mike Oldfield and thank you for comparing me to
him. Its very kind compliment! I must confess that I dont
specifically seek out inspirations from other artistes, preferring
to just let the music evolve naturally, but I am sure that I have
absorbed many influences over the years into a sort of melting pot
that I subconsciously draw from as I dream up new music. However,
as I said earlier, I tend to be influenced a lot more by actual places
- landscapes and the feel of somewhere, rather than by other music
mwe3: What are you hoping listeners will come away with after
hearing AquaEssence and musically, whats coming next
from you? Are you writing or recording? What directions in music,
all types of music, would you like to explore next?
AMBERFERN: I hope that listeners will gain a sense of calm
from AquaEssence and that along the way, the music helps to
take them on an inner journey across wide sunlit oceans to warm sandy
shores and even deep underwater to visit beautiful coral reefs. If
it does open that door to a peaceful summertime ocean sanctuary in
peoples minds, then Id feel I have succeeded.
for me is my second Distant Horizons series release, where
I envelop myself in the delicious, exotic music of the Far East. Then
theres ArborEssence, which will take listeners deep into
uncharted tropical rain forests. In between all that, Im exploring
the possibilities and potential of the Ibiza-style chillout vibe,
which, as Ive explained, I consider to be closely connected
to New Age, and have been deconstructing a lot of my music and working
with Akai MPCs to completely re-engineer and remix some of my
most popular tracks to exist in that related, yet equally relaxing
genre. I find it exciting taking my music into new areas and connecting
with even wider audiences who want to relax and chill, and who are
turning to music for that helping hand.
to Clive Brooks and
Amberfern @ www.RealMusic.com