Continuing our series of written interviews with unsigned and independent acts, we had the opportunity to submit questions to Alex, known as The Light Dreams.
1) How did you start in music, and where did the name ‘ The Light Dreams’ come from?
I first started with the serious intent of making my own albums in 2006, when I bought a new iMac which came with Apple’s GarageBand software. I hadn’t bought the Mac for that purpose at all, but what a revelation! A virtual studio in my own room, with which I could finally try and make the kind of music I’d always been interested in. I have no formal training, so it’s all self-taught and played by ear, but this software perfectly catered for working this way, and over time I found my own sound and style.
“The Light Dreams” name comes from a misheard lyric, I think on a Bioshphere album in the mid-90s. It stuck with me, as misheard lyrics tend to do, and it was the name I gave to the first cassette of demo tracks which I made in 1997, using OctaMED, an 8-track recording program on my Amiga. I didn’t make any more music until 2006, and I reprised the name then. I’ve always been fascinated with dreams, and it also has an arty, abstract ring to it, which matches the music – and was more interesting than recording under my own name.
2) How would you describe your music?
I use the term ‘instrumental soundscapes’… it’s the kind of atmospheric music to make you think, or take you on an unexpected journey. For me, the process feels very much like creating artwork (my other passion); one uses colours, the other uses sounds. I also experience mild synaesthesia, so art and music make a perfect and natural convergence.
I’m also honorary musician for the Initiative for Interstellar Studies (i4is.org), and I have released several albums in association with them, helping promote the Initiative’s mission, and this kind of electronic music is just right for that.
3) Where does the inspiration come from?
Literary science fiction has been a major influence – whether it’s books about distant futures, other worlds or alternative realities, I find a great deal of inspiration through reading. It inspires both my art and music… it often feels like I’m composing a soundtrack for whatever I’m reading.
Travel and the world around us – whether it’s visiting other countries or exploring our own isle, taking in these environments is a natural source of inspiration. There is the majesty of nature, but there’s also evidence of time passing – for example, in the countryside, you might stumble upon a remnant of the past; a ruin or artefact of something that once was. Or in cities, once you start looking carefully, above shop façades you might see traces of old signs or older, unchanged building architecture.
Dreams. Those adventures we take at night when one reality blurs into another.
There are of course, the musical influences – artists like Jean-Michel Jarre, Mike Oldfield, Peter Gabriel, David Bowie, Gary Numan and John Foxx, who all helped shape and change the face of rock and electronic music in the 70s. When I first started, it felt like I had soaked up years of influence through simply being a music fan, and it was time to regurgitate that and see what came out!
4) How do you go about writing tracks?
As my music is instrumental, I like to start with a title and work backwards from that. There might be a line in a book or a bit of film dialogue that stands out to me and sparks an idea. I always have a concept at the centre of each album project, so that gives crucial direction. Sometimes I might restrict myself from using certain sounds in order to keep things fresh.
Because I associate sounds with colours, the synaesthesia plays an important part in the creative process; finding the right sounds and atmospheres to match what’s in my mind’s eye.
5) Do you gig, and what are they like?
I don’t play live. It isn’t something I have been particularly interested in doing. I have jammed with other musicians which was great fun! I’m more interested in collaboration at this stage than live work, and hopefully some collaborative projects will come together in the near future.