2012, U.K. electronic / experimental composer Marvin Ayres released
his album called Harmogram Suite following by Ultradian
Rhythms in 2014. Late in 2015 Marvin released another groundbreaking
album called Circadian Rhythms. The six track,
47 minute Circadian Rhythms has all the hallmarks of a classical
/ avant-garde music masterpiece. Filled with Marvins tastefully
recorded sonics, overdubbed architecture of strings, double bass and
piano, Circadian Rhythms echoes some of the beguiling, often
indescribable music of Harold Budd and even Brian Eno, without the
overload of electronic saturation. Discussing his approach to sound
Marvin tells mwe3.com, "Somebody once asked my permission
to remix one of my pieces from the Neptune album called Waves
and inquired what was its tempo. My answer was 'I don't know, what
tempo is the sea'? So there is a relationship between earlier compositions
and Circadian Rhythms in as much that I do not impose a structure
at the commencement of the compositions. Eventually, with enough free
flowing extemporization and layers the pulse or pulses emerge from
within and ebb and flow naturally. However, with these last two albums
and Harmogram Suite before that I have significantly added to the
instrumentation, voice textures, psycho dynamics and the sheer quantity
of live playing." Circadian Rhythms is a fantastic
late night spin that's perfect for the times when you want to listen
to atmospheric, sonically restful soundtrack-like sounds that borders
on neoclassical meditation music. One part New Age, one part soundtrack,
one part avant-garde, Circadian Rhythms is among the most brilliantly
recorded instrumental albums you will ever hear. www.WallOfWaves.com
an interview with
Can you tell us where youre from originally and where you live
Marvin Ayres: I was born in Vauxhall in South London. I currently
alternate between homes in London and the county of East Sussex.
mwe3: What are your favorite cities and towns in the U.K. and
countries you like to visit?
Marvin Ayres: Obviously London. I also enjoy being in Glasgow,
Manchester and Brighton. When I am away from home, I particularly
like Italy and the West Coast of the USA.
mwe3: What was your early musical education like and what instruments
did you study early on?
Marvin Ayres: My very early musical education was singing songs
with my Dad, who was extremely musical whilst playing the ukulele.
I knew every George Formby song before I was five years old! I developed
a good ear by being constantly exposed to all kinds of music: my Dad's
performances, he was an entertainer, my brothers' records... Beatles/Small
Faces/Kinks and my mother's Scottish familys traditional songs
and dance. At school, I was only one of four from the whole of my
primary school chosen to learn the recorder, and then later on at
secondary school I began cello and piano lessons.
mwe3: Do you still practice your instruments or spend most
of the time composing?
Marvin Ayres: I try as much as I can to practice regularly
but have to confess that it's not as much as I want/like or need to.
mwe3: Were you more interested in rock, jazz or classical music
early on in your career and tell us something about your early band
Ayres: I think I was interested in everything and not just in
music. My friends were visual artists at Art School and their influences
also played a part in my development. When I was a teenager, the merging
of art forms or musical genres was quite rare and in the case of formal
music study, training at Music College, it was frowned upon as not
being serious or worthy. The major difference between Art School and
Music College was that art students were encouraged to express themselves:
to experiment, to play around, use their imagination, etc, whereas
at music college you were expected to conform and interpret. This
was a major conflict for me. I liked experimenting and improvisation,
I liked avant garde, I liked rock-pop music and loved classical music.
When I formed 'The Government', these were the things that inspired
me, along with a pinch of punk and lashings of New Romanticism.
mwe3: Did you record with The Government and how do you balance
such a wide-ranging musical background and vast music influences?
Marvin Ayres: Yes we made several recordings. In fact I'm restoring
them and plan to release them in the near future. I dont know
if the vast influences ever did balance out, lol, but looking back
it was like a punk prog band, which is of course a contradiction...
but it was fun, and I learned so much by playing with excellent musicians
and the discipline of rehearsing, practicing, gigging and writing.
mwe3: Who are some of your favorite artists from the rock world
and other genres including classical, neoclassical, avant garde music
and jazz? I read youre a fan of Arvo Part and Vaughan Williams.
What are your favorite albums by those composers and how about big
rock album influences? What is your favorite Bowie album and how big
of an influence was Bowie on you? I saw your pic with you and Tony
Marvin Ayres: My brother John used to watch a band in their
early stages at a small club in Beckenham. He used to tell me they
used an electric violin. The band was Curved Air. I bought him their
latest LP Second Album as a present, but before I wrapped it
up I played it and was transfixed by these anomalous atmospheres and
exotic sounds that I'd never heard before. I think the biggest influence
for me though was Roxy Music, who were the personification of art-rock
The sophistication just shined through everything they did on those
first four or five albums. Bowie was also an enormous influence and
somebody I admired greatly. It's very difficult to pin down one favorite
album, but I'd say it's between Station To Station, Aladdin Sane
and Ziggy Stardust.
These works have also been seminal to me for varied reasons:
Vaughan Williams 5th Symphony,
Arvo Part Fratres',
Eno 'Discreet Music/Apollo',
Shostakovitch 5th Symphony,
Dusty Springfield 'In Memphis',
Motown 'Chartbusters Volume 3' ,
Roxy Music 'For Your Pleasure',
Curved Air 'Phantasmagoria',
Bach - Unaccompanied Cello Suites,
Talk Talk 'The Colour Of Spring',
Joni Mitchell 'Blue/Hejira',
Beatles 'Sgt. Pepper',
Cockney Rebel 'Psychomodo',
Jethro Tull 'Thick As A Brick',
Carole King 'Tapestry',
Miles Davis 'Kind Of Blue',
Purcell ' Dido and Aeneas',
Janis Ian 'Between The Lines',
Gilbert & Sullivan 'HMS Pinafore',
Adam Ant 'Kings Of The Wild Frontier',
The Smiths 'The Queen Is Dead',
New Order 'Substance',
Blondie 'Parallel Lines',
David Darling 'Dark Wood',
Sex Pistols 'Never Mind The Bollocks',
Terry Riley 'A Rainbow In Curved Air',
Pink Floyd 'Dark Side Of The Moon',
Steve Reich/Kronos Quartet 'Different Trains',
Radiohead 'Amnesiac/Kid A',
Police 'Regatta De Blanc',
Tallis 'Spem In Alium',
Queen 'A Night At The Opera',
Perotin 'Sederunt Principes'/'Dum Sigillum',
Japan 'Tin Drum',
Jeff Buckley 'Grace',
Lassus 'Masses For Five Voices Infelix Ego',
Cesaria Evora 'Cesária',
Le Mystere Des Voix Bulgares 'Volume 3',
Kate Bush 'Hounds Of Love'.....
Your 2016 CD is called Circadian Rhythms. How did you decide
on that title, what does the title signify and how do you feel the
album is a continuation of your earlier album titles and musical vision?
The title and meaning may go over my head but thankfully the music
is much easier to absorb and become one with.
Ayres: The title is related to its 'twin' which was my last release
Ultradian Rhythms. Both Ultradian and Circadian
Rhythms are naturally occurring pulses and rhythms which form
sleep and rest patterns. Pulses and rhythms are not the same as musical
time codes or beats which are normally metronomically correct. I thought
that it was close to a lot of my compositional ideas and processes
whereby I avoid any formulaic or conventional time signatures, or
'bpms' and tempi. I like to explore the musical territory that is
unsullied by pre-conditioned time. For example, if you're on a train
you can often hear the noise of the wheels/tracks and carriages which
produce a rhythmic sound, 'clickety clack' or whatever, but it's not
in a strict tempo, it's not rattling at 120 mm or 120 bpm, it's falling
in and out of time. This mirrors Circadian Rhythms in that
they are relevant rhythms but not robotic.
Somebody once asked my permission to remix one of my pieces from the
Neptune album called Waves and inquired what was
it's tempo. My answer was 'I don't know, what tempo is the sea'?
So there is a relationship between earlier compositions and Circadian
Rhythms in as much that I do not impose a structure at the commencement
of the compositions. Eventually, with enough free flowing extemporization
and layers, the pulse or pulses emerge from within and ebb and flow
naturally. However, with these last two albums and Harmogram Suite
before that I have significantly added to the instrumentation, voice
textures, psycho-dynamics and the sheer quantity of live playing.
mwe3: Its incredible to find out that you created Circadian
Rhythms through overdubbing all by yourself. Who else was involved
with helping you achieve such a high level of audio perfection in
the studio and how would you compare this way of recording to working
with other artists on a recording or album? I was thinking Circadian
Rhythms as a kind of a 21st century Tubular Bells type
Ayres: I work with a team of excellent engineers who are able
to facilitate the epic nature of recording hundreds of layers of orchestral
parts and creating the amazing sound and sound quality with innovative
recording techniques. My compositions are obviously unique to me and
I therefore have different approaches to recording others and adapt
to their vision of what they want to achieve, but never compromising
on quality. I can see your reason for referencing Tubular Bells,
but I'd see that as a more 'pop' pastiche of Steve Reich's Music
For 18 Musicians. Although I have overdubbed hundreds of parts,
the soul of the piece is quite different from something like Tubular
Bells. I'd probably say Tubular Bells had a time signature
mwe3: Do you consider your music to be metaphysical, meditative
and otherworldly and how did you start up with your sacred spaces
music projects? What are some of the sacred spaces in England that
inspired you to create this unique environmental and ambient type
of music and has something like this been done before?
Marvin Ayres: I, like most composers/artists, find difficulty
in pinning down what it is you actually create, being so close to
it. Certainly there are elements of all three of those components
you mention. For me, it's just a stream of an unconscious flow of
free form modern classical composition that juxtaposes real playing
with creative studio artistry and arrives at its exponential and non-premeditated
conception. I always say I'm just the conduit.
One day I had the idea that instead of creating feelings and passion
from my instruments, wouldnt it be great to try and extract
those essences inherent in an environment. Its secrets... trails of
expelled moments of life, almost like the vaporized outlines of the
victims of the atomic bombs in Japan. So I made up a list of fairly
eclectic architectural and iconic spaces... thinking of all that history
and experiences that occurred for example on a war submarine, or the
ship HMS Victory, or a cathedral.
Within those interiors are the energies that witnessed and absorbed
the life that was and I wanted to capture that latency via my celli/violins/viola
and then refine those into compositions back in the studio untreated
with effects. I dont think my sonic environments have been achieved
by anybody else in the same way, at least not that I'm aware of. My
skills are probably unusual and rare in as much as I play several
classical instruments, I extemporize and 'treat' and manipulate their
sounds in my 3D / Surround Sound studio.
What other composers in the U.K. and elsewhere do you feel are currently
creating instrumental music that might be considered kindred to your
own approach or sound?
Marvin Ayres: You may think this an odd answer, but it's the
truth, and that is, I go out of my way not to listen to other composers
because I do not wish to be distracted from my own sojourn or potentially
be 'contaminated' by another's artistry. I do not wish to unconsciously
replenish my inspiration by unwittingly borrowing from those influences.
mwe3: When did you start the Wall Of Waves studio? I read that
you worked with David Bowie on creating strings for him as well as
other artists. Who are some of the other artists you worked with at
Wall Of Waves?
Marvin Ayres: The studio began life as Atelier Studios in 1999
which morphed into Wall Of Waves in 2009. I was gradually being commissioned
to add strings to various projects/ /songs/adverts/films, etc and
so I created the Marvin Ayres String Orchestra (MASO). Tony Visconti
was looking for an artist of his to use my strings and he ended up
endorsing me as did Martyn Ware (Heaven 17/Human League). I even ended
up doing backing vocals of a Boy George song on the BEF album Dark
on the song I arranged Be Your Dog. Here's a list.
mwe3: How and when did you meet Can drummer Jaki Liebezeit
and what was it like touring and recording with him? In what way was
the German group Can a big influence on you and your music?
Marvin Ayres: When I was signed to the label Mille Plateaux,
the label manager was in the process of signing Jaki Liebezeit's band
Club Off Chaos. Jaki Liebezeit had heard my albums Cellosphere
and Neptune via the label and was interested in me doing some
remixes and recordings. Then the manager suggested a tour. To be honest,
I discovered CAN relatively late in life so I can't really cite them
as an influence, but they are superb!
mwe3: How and when did you meet Sonja Kristina and what albums
did you work with Sonja on? What kind of influence did Sonjas
band Curved Air have on your music and will you be working with Sonja
again in the future? What's your Favorite Curved Air album?
Ayres: I first met Sonja at a recording studio that my friend
and I gatecrashed when we were 14 years of age, whilst the remnants
of Curved Air were trying to record an album! It was all very grown
up for a pair of impressionable 14 year olds. The lovely Martin Rushent
was there producing it and we ended up staying 3 days. Fast forward
27 years and I had a chance meeting with her as she was working as
a kind of A&R person for a record company that were looking for
unusual acts, and I was looking for a release for a Surround Sound
DVD Installation. She was working on a jazz album and asked me to
add strings and co-produce it. After the album was finished we embarked
on a project called Mask and released two albums and scored a Billboard
top 30 dance single. I returned to my composition and production and
she returned to a reformed Curved Air.
When Darryl, the violinist, dropped out she asked me several times
to join, but I never wanted to be part of somebody else's history.
I am excited by embracing the new and Curved Air for all their merits
were by now, for me, somewhat anachronistic. However, I produced their
Live Atmosphere album, re-mastered the historical recording
On Air, including the John Peel sessions at Wall Of Waves and
worked intensely on the preproduction of their studio album. Unfortunately,
the actual recording of the studio album was riddled with problems
and dramas and it became an extremely difficult, intense and sad time
as my mother was gravely ill and eventually died. The whole saga ended
up like being in a Spinal Tap sequel.
I just wasn't prepared for the absurdity of the situation. I was hired
as a producer, but it became apparent that what they really wanted
was a therapist, cheerleader and co-engineer. The contrast between
coming back from the intensive care ward in the hospital to e-mails
from middle aged men stamping their feet because they hadn't got what
they wanted, when they wanted was grotesque. Nobody wanted a producer,
so I was hung out to dry. I was very let down and the treacherous
nature of it all left me scarred. In the end I suppose people have
to deal with their own consciences but the whole episode was very
damaging. Thankfully, though, I've worked with some lovely people
since. My favorite Curved Air album? Phantasmagoria.
mwe3: What are your hobbies and what other interests do
you have outside of music or is it music 24/7 for you?
Marvin Ayres: I have a passion for film and literature as well
as architecture. I also renovate property. Im lucky that I'm
now able to divide my time in two different creative spaces, London
and the East Sussex coast. I have an apartment overlooking the ocean
which is truly inspirational where I can write and be inspired. As
well as that I have the most adorable dog and we take him for long
coastal walks. It's funny too because when I go into my rehearsal
studio to practice and play, he will come in and just sit beside me
Are you planning to bring Circadian Rhythms to a wider audience
and are you planning a follow up to Circadian Rhythms and what
other ventures, musical and otherwise do you have for 2016 and beyond?
Marvin Ayres: As with Ultradian Rhythms, Circadian Rhythms
will be scored and eventually played live. There wont be a follow
up to Circadian Rhythms as they were planned as twins and theyre
now both complete. I will be going out on the road again later this
year. The Sacred Spaces project is ongoing and I have recordings from
several locations which I will be working on. As for the future, I
have three collaborations planned as well as two upcoming releases
on the WOW label.