(Esoteric Antenna)


Breaking down walls for experimental and minimalist electronic music, Stephen W Tayler makes a statement all his own on the 2015 CD release of Ostinato. Released on the adventurous Esoteric Antenna label, the nine track Ostinato sounds influenced by classic minimalist composers like Terry Riley and Philip Glass, yet there’s also something of a rock-centric energy on Ostinato. With a myriad of musical moves, the entire album has a dreamlike quality to it, a feel greatly enhanced by Tayler's legendary studio wizardry. Speaking to about Ostinato, Stephen explains, “These are the sounds and ideas that have lived in my mind... the sound of voices, choirs, organs, the piano, the clarinet, synthesizers, vocoders, places and environments, from the depths of my memory and across the years. I find it hard to categorize what genre this is... I tend to refer to it as a blend of minimal electronica, sound design and manipulation but there are actually many acoustic instruments and voices in there too. A world-renowned mixing and recording engineer, musician, composer and sound designer, Stephen W. Tayler breaks new ground for 21st century ambient electronic music with the fascinating sound of Ostinato. presents an interview with

mwe3: Can you tell us where you’re from originally and where you live now and what you like best about it? What are some of your favorite cities and towns to visit?

SWT: I was born and grew up in High Wycombe, Buckinghamshire, UK about 25 miles west of London. I was sent off to boarding schools, so many of my early years were spent away from home, first in Oxford, then Shrewsbury. For the last 10 years I have been living in the west of England, near Bath, and I am now based at Real World Studios, where I share a studio space with my partner. It is wonderful to be involved in such a wonderful creative community of musicians, producers and artists.

I have traveled a lot and been to many great cities, all of which have their pros and cons. My favorites would have to be NYC, Los Angeles, Melbourne and Sydney, Rome and Paris, and I enjoy London more now that I don’t actually have to live there! These are all good in small doses, but I am always pleased to get back to the relative peace and quiet of home.

mwe3: How did your new solo album Ostinato take shape? Tell us about the title and how did working on the other side of the glass with other artists lead to you to decide to make an album of your own? Would you describe Ostinato as avant-garde and experimental music?

SWT: Ostinato came about as a result of ideas that had been fermenting and evolving in my mind for decades. It really is the product of my meditations and daydreams, inspired by many, many hours sitting and waiting in studios working as a sound engineer and mixer. Most of these ideas really came together during a period of my life when I was traveling a lot... endless hours waiting in stations and airports, sitting in trains, planes and automobiles. The themes in my head began to blend with the sounds around me.

I began to record these sonic environments using in-ear binaural microphones with a Mini Disc recorder. I would be in a trancelike state in order to deal with the tedious nature of these journeys, and that is what inspired me to bring my ideas together in a minimal, repetitive, atmospheric and hypnotic fashion. Ostinato is the Italian musical term for a repeating phrase or rhythm. Literally translated it means stubborn or obstinate. I wanted to create these atmospheres and then add simple patterns with ever evolving sounds and arrangements.

I find it hard to categorize what genre this is. I tend to refer to it as a blend of minimal electronica, sound design and manipulation but there are actually many acoustic instruments and voices in there too.

mwe3: Where and when was the music of Ostinato written and recorded? How long did it take to write and record and who is Sadia Sadia who is listed as exec? Who else aided in the completion of Ostinato?

SWT: Many of the soundscapes were gathered during my travels to and from Paris during the late 1990s, when I was recording and mixing with Eric Serra, and that is where several of the titles and ideas originated. Some of the musical ideas were recorded during the 2000s, but the bulk of the writing and reworking started around 2010 and was finished in 2013. I still am very active as a producer and mixer, so I had to find moments between my other projects.

It was all put together at my then home studio. I reckon the album in reality took about six months but it's impossible to really measure it. Some of the ideas were inspired by ideas from when I was a teenager! It is ever ongoing as I have created a full visual to complement the music and I have created a surround version as well.

Executive producer Sadia Sadia is my creative partner. We have been best friends for over 25 years and occasionally collaborate or support each other’s ventures. We work on a variety of projects that include many aspects of music, sound, film, visual art and installations - all manner of time-based arts. Sadia was the only person who gave me enormously helpful feedback during the making of Ostinato, otherwise every element of the project was solely down to me.

mwe3: What is your background as a musician? What were your early music studies like and what instruments do you write your music with? After listening to Ostinato it seems like you’re more at home with high tech electronics compared to electric guitars and acoustic instruments although one listen to the track “On The Beach” proves you can transfer that music magic on grand piano.

SWT: I was a boy chorister with New College Choir, in Oxford, from the age of eight. I studied the piano and clarinet, and eventually gained a music scholarship to Shrewsbury School. I was fascinated by recording and pop music, so I picked up other instruments during my teens. I went on to study music for 3 years at the Royal College of Music, London. I got involved with all kinds of music from classical to experimental, and started to play in bands - I suppose heavily influenced by bands such as Pink Floyd, Soft Machine, YES, Genesis. On leaving college I decided to get into recording and production, and so I put my own music making on hold.

I would say the most effective part of my music training was in the choir. That is where I was taught to listen from a very early age, and that is at the core of everything I do and I count sound itself as one of my instruments. Much of the musical writing originates in my head, but when the recording process starts I use whatever is at hand to get things going, there is never a strict pattern to the process. For instance, the track “Sacre-Couer” came about by me immersing myself in the atmospheres that I recorded in the cathedral. It was about six in the morning and I couldn't sleep, so I went for a walk and wandered inside the cathedral, and the cleaners were going about their business... the ambience was marvelous. I am not in any way religious, but there was a wonderful sense of peace and calm. As with several of the tracks, I improvised on piano inspired by the recorded atmosphere and the idea developed from there.

“The Boy Who Said Yes” was an idea I had when I found a recording of me age thirteen singing the part of The Boy in an opera by Kurt Weill - Der Jasager (The Yes Sayer). I chose some phrases of piano and my own voice from the crucial moment when The Boy agrees to sacrificing his own life in order to save his sick mother... heavy stuff! Other choral sounds originate from a sonic manipulation of the other singers.

mwe3: What was it like working with Kate Bush on her last two albums and on her live shows? How did you meet Kate and what albums of hers do you like the most?

SWT: I am very lucky to have been working with Kate Bush, who has become a dear friend, we get on really well. These years have been very happy for me, the albums were a complete pleasure to mix with her, and I was honored to be asked to help with the live shows. It was a first for me to be involved with live sound, complete terrifying, but I think we cracked it! I was part of a really great team.

Kate is a very private person, and out of respect for her I prefer to not to talk about our work together.

I was introduced through her manager, who is a long time friend of mine. My favorite albums of hers would be The Hounds Of Love, which has become very dear to me especially after Before The Dawn, and 50 Words For Snow, which has seen her simple long-form compositions really shine.

mwe3: What are some of your other favorite productions and studio work? I saw that picture of you with Ton Scherpenzeel of Kayak, which was great. (see left)

SWT: I have really enjoyed many albums produced together with Rupert Hine, so I would pick his solo albums, and many albums made for The Fixx. A lot of memories are attached to each album I have been involved in, and it invariably has more to do with the people than the music. When all the elements come together for an enjoyable experience and a great piece of work, then that is pure magic. But too many to mention...

I worked with Kayak right at the start of my career, and I don't have many clear memories from that time - I was probably so wrapped up in my new responsibilities and skills! I do remember their fine musicianship on the album Starlight Dancer. I recently bumped into Ton who was rehearsing with Camel in the rehearsal room next to our studio at Real World.

mwe3: I didn’t know you worked on the first two Bruford albums, which were highly influential. Do you keep in touch with Bill Bruford? What are your fondest memories of working on the first two Bruford albums?

SWT: I worked on Bill Bruford’s first two solo albums, as well as the first album by UK. A lot of my first experiences as a studio engineer were with some really hot, talented players, many in the jazz rock fusion world, which made for a really intense atmosphere in the studio... incredible to witness so much complex music and musicianship - one had to be really on one’s toes. I had a pretty comprehensive understanding of music, which really helped and it was noticed by many of the players. I last saw Bruford in a small club around 13 years ago, it was great to catch up. I do remember the atmosphere on the albums as being quite tense, but great fun!

mwe3: What artists and albums were the most influential to you while you were growing up and what artists today do you enjoy listening to?

SWT: I really grew up with The Beatles, my older brothers and sisters had all the records. I used to sit with my brother with a couple of guitars and play and sing along. The first actual record I bought myself was “See Emily Play” by Pink Floyd - these were all very influential. During my teens my tastes became ever more eclectic, but main influences were The Who, Led Zeppelin, Soft Machine, Terry Riley and much of early progressive rock. There were a few records that turned my head sonically - Beatles White Album, Emerson Lake and Palmer, the first album, and The YES Album. These last two, produced by Eddie Offord were a very particular and new sound to my ears. I really listened to a lot of different material, but I would say that Tubular Bells was also a turning point, and then when I joined Trident Studios one of the first albums I witnessed was Crime Of The Century by Supertramp, which has been a favorite of mine, both musically and production-wise, ever since. Thank you Ken Scott! These days I don't actually listen to a ton of music, but my tastes are extremely varied.

mwe3: How did you meet up with Esoteric Records and what do you like best about Esoteric?

SWT: I was introduced to Esoteric when I helped Rupert Hine remaster songs for his A&M Trilogy rereleases. Esoteric generally deals with releasing catalogue by mostly progressive rock artists, but their imprint, Esoteric Antenna, is all about new material. They also seem to be branching into more experimental music as well. They have released material by many of the musicians I have worked with over the years! And they are lovely people.

mwe3: Tell us about Rupert Hine, how you met him and what are some of your collaborations with Rupert over the years? What are some of your favorite Rupert albums and productions? I had forgotten Rupert was a member of Quantum Jump with John Perry of Caravan.

SWT: I first met Rupert Hine in 1976, but in 1980 it happened that we were managed by the same company, Hit & Run. Our manager suggested I get together with Roop for his experimental album, Immunity, we hit it off and the rest is history. We have worked together on well over 100 projects over the years. Rupert’s four solo albums, four albums with The Fixx, albums with Howard Jones, Saga, Rush, Stevie Nicks, Bob Geldof, Tina Turner, Underworld, Suzanne Vega, Milla Jovovich - so many others too many to mention - a really broad sweep of different styles and genres. Rupert is always led by passionate and imaginative song writing, and encourages musicians to stretch themselves and not just do the obvious. We are so not interested in following trends and doing the same thing over and over. Not really a mainstream mentality. It has meant that I have remained quite fresh and enthusiastic over the years. Always up for new challenges!

mwe3: Now that Ostinato is released and getting great reviews, what other musical mountains are you ready to scale? Are you planning on writing and recording new music or are you more interested in getting back into production?

SWT: Oh, I shall be creating something new when I have the brain-space. I am ever more intrigued by simultaneously creating audio and visual works, either as collaborations with others artists, or on my own. I also have an endless enthusiasm for learning new techniques and methods.

I already have a theme in mind for the next project. In the meantime I have a number of ongoing productions to deal with. Watch this space!


Attention Artists and Record Companies: Have your CD reviewed by
Send to
: Reviews Editor Robert Silverstein
2351 West Atlantic Blvd. #667754
Pompano Beach, Florida 33066

New York address (for legal matters only)
P.O. Box 222151, Great Neck, N.Y. 11022-2151

CD Reviews Feature Reviews & Features Archive Photo Archive Contact MWE3 Home


Copyright 1999-2015 - All Rights Reserved