Mystified has released a new CD of material on Magnatune, A Pale but Lasting Hope. It is pretty amazing; the CD can previewed and purchased here. Thomas Park is no stranger to the Man-Machine comic. So it is a pleasure to be able share a short email interview with the prolific ambient composer below. Thomas is one of the most laconic people I've ever known, which i think comes through in his music. His approach to music can be quite minimalistic. Sometimes the sounds seem to reflect just the right number of gestures and yet have a lot of craft to them. Mystified never goes for low hanging fruit. Although the music is ambient, it is not lounge music and is too jarring at times to qualify as space music.
WHAT ARE YOUR FAVORITE THINGS TO LISTEN TO THESE DAYS?
I have been enjoying some Fosel, C. Reider, some select tracks from Eno's new one, a little PBK, and a nice radiostream called "Leftob".
IN YOUR COLLEGE DAYS, YOU WERE A LATE NIGHT DJ ON WNUR'S FREEFORM SHOW. CAN YOU SAY SOMETHING ABOUT YOUR RADIO SHOW ON WNUR? DID YOU EVER INTERACT WITH YOUR LISTENERS?
The show was a lot of fun. I believe I went on 4-6 am. I came on after this total DJ guru-type and played lots of freeform madness. Best results seemed to be blending spoken word and other sounds with music. Yes, I did interact a bit, sometimes taking calls. But the 8 Swedish schoolgirls who called one morning I believe were just my college buddies. (THOMAS IS BEING TYPICALLY MODEST HERE. . . HIS SHOW WAS PRETTY WEIRD AND WONDERFUL AND HE WOULD GET SOME PRETTY ODD CALLERS IN WEE HOURS OF THE MORNING).
HOW DO YOU KNOW WHEN SOMETHING IS DONE?
That's a tough one, especially given how minimal I can be. I suppose the answer would be-- when I run out of ideas for it?
DO YOU EVER GO BACK TO A TRACK AND REVISE IT?
I have before, yes. Just recently I touched-up and re-rendered one of my 2010 releases, for example. I generally tend to move ahead, but if something seems to need work, and it is still possible, I will do it, yes.
YOU HAVE A GOOD TRACK RECORD OF COLLABORATION WITH OTHER MUSICIANS. CAN YOU SAY SOMETHING ABOUT HOW YOU ARE ABLE TO WORK WITH SO MANY DIFFERENT PEOPLE?
Well, it has a lot to do with my philosophy about art. I believe art is a creative activity. Therefore, pretty much all art is good. Almost all of it. So if you work with me, you are already doing something I like. I also think a skill of mine is to integrate different styles and sounds easily-- or maybe it's just that my software makes that so simple.
WHAT WERE YOUR FAVORITE RECORDS GROWING UP. DO ANY OF THEM STILL INFLUENCE YOU TODAY?
Joy Division, New Order, Meat Beat Manifesto, 808 State, KMFDM, the KLF, stuff like that. All of that early industrial music definitely is a powerful influence. If you don't like industrial music, much of my catalog becomes inaccessible.
IS THERE ANY KIND OF SOUND THAT YOU REALLY DON'T LIKE?
Well, I like little kids, but the sound of a baby crying really gets to me. But I think it's supposed to-- yes? Nature made it that way?
HAVE YOU EVER SEEN A UFO?
Q: Upon receipt of your album Passing Through the Outer Gates and reading the info card, I was really interested because the whole idea of that Eulogy Series by FFS was to have each artist express their perception of the death experience in their music. Death is a fascinating concept to work with and it’s always pretty intriguing to see what peoples' own perceptions are of it. In listening to Mystified I was pleasantly surprised at how meditative and celestial your take on it was, it really wasn’t very dark but more of a sense of achieving enlightenment. How do view the concept of death and what did you really want to convey in this release?
Well, death is usually seen as an ending point to life, and in a lot of ways it is one. We lose our consciousness of this world (apparently) and leave our earthly connections behind. In another way, though, maybe death is a new beginning-- a transition of the soul away from the body. If it is our fleshy forms that cause so much suffering, then to depart the body might actually be a relief, though a scary one. In "Outer Gates" I imagined I was portraying the journey of a soul, from the moment it left its body, through various stages (or "gates"), until it found a place of rest at a distant quiet point. Actually, to me, the music is dark, though not as oppressive as some dark ambient releases.
Q: Was there any specific response that you had wanted to invoke in the listener? What do you aspire to create in your artistic form of Mystified?
I definitely wanted the release to be enjoyed as a whole. A person is welcome to listen to songs individually, if they like, but part of the point of the cd is to portray a complete transition. This involves a sad and moody beginning, changes and transformations both exciting and scary, and finally a peaceful resolution. So I was hoping the listener might find this trip to be engaging and might find a point of resolution at the end by listening. As for my artistic goals as Mystified, there honestly have been many, but one of my main goals has been to find music in the world around me, and to fuse different ideas of what might be called "atmospheric". For example. I have used data I gathered from flowers and star patterns to create music, and even actual radio waves generated by lightning. I did not use these techniques in "Outer Gates", but I did try to create a broad picture of atmosphere, with lots of expanse, and nice, graceful subtleties going on.
Q: Tell us a bit about Mystified as a whole (past, present and future)?
Mystified is my main musical entity. I've been around for over a decade, and composed in many different styles. Looking back, I would say that the main element of Mystified is one of growth, which I feel I can observe through the years. I'd also hope that there has been a consistent insistence on a certain quality, especially in terms of sound and achieving atmosphere. If you were to listen to my releases in chronological order, you could definitely notice trends-- such as primitive ambient, phonographic, minimal drone, droney techno, and so forth. At this point, I have quite a few pieces. Rather than discard them, I keep them, for various purposes. I like to listen to the best pieces from each phase of growth.
Q: I’ve always found ambient in all its forms to be fascinating because the compositions are generally cinematic, even the most minimal of them. They somehow conjure up images in your mind and play out a narrative derived from your unconscious and conscious responses to the sounds, it’s almost psychedelic in many ways as well. How do as an ambient artist view the style?
I think your description is excellent. With "Outer Gates" it was especially interesting, because, for me, true ambient is abstract. It goes back to the original notion-- something quiet being played in the background, barely heard. Ambient music is a lot like elements of the world around us-- the sky, moon, stars, and such. They beautify or transform our surroundings, sometimes with us hardly noticing. But in "Outer Gates", when I submitted some minimal, "naturalistic" bell drones, Chris at the label First Fallen Star pushed me to add more to them, striving for more power and complexity. So I think especially with this release I explored the cinematic style of ambient, rather than the strictly abstract.
Q: Aside from this album and the theme of death, what themes/ideas influence your music, if they are anything specific?
Certainly nature and the world around me, which I believe stems from some cosmic consciousness, or at least a great primal source. In this respect, I have done lots of stuff about urban environments (since I live in one, and it's also part of my atmosphere), tribal environments (for me pretty imaginary, but indicative of some primal atmosphere), science fiction, carrying with it a fascination with space as a part of the universe we are just beginning to explore, and many other themes. I would say I tend to be less emotive. I am moody, but not emotive. There is a trend in ambient I would like to call "Emo-bient". It's been around from the beginning. But I tend to shy away from that, a little, from the syrupy, gosh golly pieces. Feeling in Mystified is usually tempered by darkness, or maybe maturity.
Q: For me art is very personal and it’s not always easy to express what you want to and then be open to explaining it to others who might find it confusing or in my case disturbing. It’s sort of like you expose or maybe even give away part of you with each creation that you unveil. That’s part of why a lot of my stuff never gets finished, I either lose the feeling through the process as time passes or am just unsure of whether I really want to put that image out there to judged and tried. How do you view music, do you see it as something that can be very personal?
Well, I do attribute a certain importance to the stuff I've done, which may be silly. But it is part of the human ego to connect with its creations. Honestly, most of my music is abstract and theoretical, so, I feel less like I am exposing myself emotionally and more like I am interpreting or re-creating the world around me. "Outer Gates" is an exception as, with Chris at the label pushing me, I really had to dig deep. So you are seeing more of Mystified as a person in this cd.
Q: I really respect what you have created with Passing Through the Outer Gates and look forward to hearing more of your stuff in the future. In closing, is there anything that you’d like to add ?
Thanks to Chris at First Fallen Star for his inspiration, to my fans for their dedication, and thanks also to you Janet for interviewing me and for your thoughtful and searching questions. Don't forget to visit me at http://www.mystifiedmusic.com !
3. Published January 2012 by Wounds Of The Earth webzine
Firstly, can you give us a brief history of your project?
Mystified has been around since about 2002. I am mainly an ambient project-- also drone, dark ambient and other genres. The main birth of my project happened when Robin Storey of Rapoon agreed to collaborate with me (on "Music For Transit"), which was a great inspiration and motivational force. Since then, Mystified has taken many different forms. Currently I am experimenting a lot with creating layered organic drones using actual acoustic instruments (like the trombone and flute).
What inspires you to make music? What draws you to the medium of ambient music?
I love to create. As of now I have no children (I hope that will change), so I channel a lot of my time and creative energy into music. Making music also has been a dream of mine since seeing DJs spin as a teenager.
My attraction to ambient is due to great artists like Robin Storey and Brian Eno for showing me some of the minimal sides to music and for breaking rules so I can break them, too.
Your track for the compilation is “Where God Lives”. Can you give us a bit of insight on what inspired the track, how you composed it, etc?
My inspiration for "Where God Lives" came from my friend Martin Hekker, author of groundbreaking internet comic "Manmachine". "Manmachine" is an epic science fiction comic. In it, the main character, a robot, journeys in a spaceship to the place where God lives. He literally rides a probe into the body of God. This imaginary journey inspired my track.
Tell us a bit about your studio. What gear are you using, what is your favorite gear/techniques/etc ?
I have a number of sound sources like trombone, flute, pan flute, and others like kazoo, slide whistle and so forth. I have a Linear recording device, a shortwave radio, and I mix everything down using a 64-bit Windows 7 PC and Sony software. Lately I have greatly enjoyed recording acoustic sources and processing them using software.
You have a pretty large catalog of material. How do you stay inspired to constantly write new material, and how do you keep it fresh (the writing process for yourself, and the music itself for the listener)?
Well, if I write it, I want it to interest me. I want to want to listen to it. So it's not really for success, but for enjoyment that I write, and that keeps it always fresh.
What can we expect in the future from Mystified?
A PBS special I helped to score called "Diamond In The Dunes" is due out in 2012. Also, there will be a collaborative cd with musician Shane Morris on Spotted Peccary / Lotuspike in mid-2012. And lots more, I promise.