September and October so far have been very busy for label. The first RTR event took place at IKLECTIK in London on Sunday October 6th, featuring the Andrew Heath & Anne Chris Bakker, Matt Atkins, Andrew Sherwell, and Kevin Buckland. The event was planned to support the release of ‘a gift for the Ephemerist’ by Heath & Bakker, and was a successful first foray into live events since launching RTR back in January 2018. There will be more live events planned in the future in different locations across the UK, but for now, let’s open up a conversation with one half of the duo, Andrew Heath.
Andrew is a soundscape artist and composer based in Stroud, UK. He creates ambient, Lower-case music with an emphasis on intricacy and the subtlety of sound. His work carefully blends piano, electronics, and found sound. In this maker feature, Andrew talks about unusual introductions to ambient music, finding inspiration through a love of the creative process in all forms, and collaboration within the visual realms.
How did you first get introduced to ambient/drone/experimental music?
As a boy, I remember seeing a documentary about a sculptor who created large installations with blocks of wood and sheets of metal that were suspended in mid air… moving one piece would then set up a cascade of random movement and noise. This one moment has stayed with me and explains my fascination with serendipity in music. After that I was exposed to the music of very early Kraftwerk (almost before synthesisers), Jean Micheal Jarre and Vangelis. I read about the work of Edgard Varese and John Cage in my early teens and was fascinated by The Radiophonic Workshop and their work on Dr Who.
What inspires you to create a new body of work?
Almost anything inspires me. In fact let me rephrase that, everything inspires me – In truth, I have a love of process and it’s this that I find brings ideas. I’ll work with a field recording and balance that against tones and textures from guitar or synthesiser before bringing in piano. I’ve always loved the sound of the piano. I’m not a very good player, I just inhabit this narrow band of style but I like it and I’m happy to stay here. Working with others is another way to create new work that can take you in new directions. I always say of collaboration that one plus one equals three.
How do you approach working on a new release?
I am constantly working on new material. Between trying to keep fit and healthy by cycling and working to pay the bills I try to maximise my use of time to create and to stay focused. I’m aware of similar patterns as I create new material. I’ll get excited by the direction of a piece and start putting in more and more to the point where suddenly, I feel unhappy with it. I’ll then leave it – step away, but always keep thinking about it – and then return and start taking elements away until it reaches an equilibrium. Then I know it’s nearly finished. The work of my wife (an artist) is very important to me and we often talk the same language – she in visual terms and me in sound terms but it’s the same language we use and as a project progresses I’ll start to explore how it might inhabit a visual and sonic world and how they might harmonise.
Can you tell us about your favourite new release from the last 12 months?
I’ve recently come across the work of Marcus Fischer. His album ‘Loss’ (12k, 2017) is just hesitantly delicate and falteringly beautiful. I tell everyone about that one. I so wanted to visit Iceland again for The Extreme Chill this year as he was playing… next time!
As RTR is a tape label, we have to ask: What attracts you to the cassette medium?
I have always been fascinated with tape. The idea that you can record music to this narrow band of magnetic stuff! In my early teens I experimented with electric guitar and tape echo (WEM Watkins Copicat anyone?) – synthesisers were impossibly expensive then. One day my father came home from work with an old Sony reel to reel tape machine and I set about recording all sorts of things with an old microphone. This machine had three speeds and I experimented with the sounds of many household things reversed and slowed right down. It was a eureka moment for me and I can still hear those sounds now. As a maker I am delighted by the return of this format. I love the DIY ethos and approach by musicians to cassettes and I love the fact that it stays away from being file-based and yet strangely still encourages an element of sharing.
Andrew Heath & Anne Chris Bakker – ‘a gift for the Ephemerist’ (RTR021) is available now in a limited run of cassettes and as a digital download. The special edition cassettes with handmade packing and a series of mini-prints sold out from RTR and Andrew’s own page almost immediately, however there are a small number available direct from Chris here.