Terry Wickham: Did you guys ever think you’d be sandwiched between a shredding melodic guitar album, a horror film score and a couple of heavy metal albums as Runner-up for Best Album of 2013?
Craig Padilla: I have to admit that as much as I feel that When the Earth Is Far Away is an outstanding recording, I certainly didn’t see it being listed amongst rock and horror. I think it goes to show you how much they all have in common: Our ambient release is a “shredding” album in its own way, and it may be considered to be a little spooky if you’re drifting far away from your home planet. Besides all of that, we are very pleased that you enjoyed this release and have decided to make it a “runner-up”. (I hope other listeners appreciate it as much as you do.)
Zero Ohms (Richard Roberts): hehehe – no, I couldn’t have foreguessed that! I knew this was an exceptionally good album, but that’s just my perception. It’s humbling and gratifying when someone such as yourself finds it to be one of the best of the year!
TW: Who first got the spark to do this third collaboration together?
ZO: We actually started to work on a third album right after Beyond the Portal was finished, but then other projects in both our professional and personal lives pushed this project onto the back burner for a couple of years. Then one day, Craig called me and within a couple of weeks, the album was already taking shape.
CP: After Beyond the Portal was completed, we decided that we wanted to start working on more new music to keep the machine moving. However, “life happens” and our project got put on the back burner for a few years. Fortunately, Richard and I keep in contact on a fairly regular basis so the “musical connection” between the two of us always remains. So when the time felt right to create more music with each other, we decided to go for it. In a short amount of time, the building blocks began to form for When the Earth Is Far Away.
TW: What did you want conceptually to do different on When the Earth Is Far Away versus Path of Least Resistance and Beyond the Portal?
CP: Initially, we didn’t know what we wanted to do that was different from our first two releases. We knew that our previous releases had a unique quality to each of them and we wanted this one to be just as unique. We began recording a few tracks and sending them to each other so we could add our own flourishes as well as manipulate some of each other’s performances. Our albums have materialized because we “go with the flow,” and then it just so happens that the albums sort of create themselves. I remember thinking we were almost finished with the music and I mentioned wanting to create just a few more ideas. Then Richard reminded me about a track that we had finished recording a few years prior and put on the back burner. I found the original tracks and mixed it within the new material and it fit PERFECTLY! This track is titled “Blue Distance” and Richard plays a very beautiful solo on it. Then once the material started coming together, it was apparent that this album had a unique style in comparison to the first two. When the Earth Is Far Away is a heavenly and celestial journey of sound. It has outer-space qualities of Path of Least Resistance and inner-space qualities of Beyond the Portal, and combines them in a heavenly timeless manner.
ZO: Both previous efforts with Craig had been groundbreaking, each in its own way. I wasn’t sure how we could, but I wanted it to not just break new ground this time, but to break through to a new space altogether.
TW: Was it always your vision and goal to make a trilogy?
CP: I’ve never considered it a goal to do a “trilogy” as much as I’ve only wanted to continue making great music with Richard. I knew after our first collaboration that we had established a terrific blend of styles and sounds.
ZO: I’ve done several collaboration projects but this was the first time I’ve made a third effort with anyone. So, to answer your question, no it wasn’t the vision we could see, until we stood atop the crest of our second album, Beyond the Portal.
TW: And are the three albums musically or conceptually linked?
ZO: Our initial work, Path of Least Resistance, is a story of travel through outer space. Beyond the Portal, a tale of travel through the inner space within the mental and emotional realms. While When the Earth Is Far Away has qualities of both the others and goes beyond them, it has a greater sense of a journey of consciousness.
The story is that of an expedition searching distant solar systems for a planet they can terraform into a home for themselves. Similar to the story of Path of Least Resistance but where that was like a sci-fi story, When the Earth Is Far Away has more of a feel of actuality about it. Less Captain Kirk, more Neil DeGrasse Tyson.
CP: I think all three albums are linked by a sort of spiritual nature, meaning that it just sort of happened on its own, although we initially never planned it to be that way. Regarding our recording sessions for our first collaboration: I always wanted to combine some real organic flute with some of my spacier and sequencer synths. I was completely impressed when I first heard Zero Ohms’ solo albums on the Space for Music label. He was already tapping into the sound that I’ve always wanted to create, except he wasn’t using any sequencer rhythms. So it felt natural to contact him and see if he’d be interested in collaborating. Thankfully, he said “yes”. And Path of Least Resistance was created in a very inspired and short amount of time. This led to our next album a few years later, and this time Skip Murphy was inspired to collaborate with us. Once we finished working on Beyond the Portal, we knew we wanted to create a third album and make this a trilogy. Skip began helping out with the recording of new material, but decided to bow out because he didn’t have the time. Richard and I continued to bring When the Earth Is Far Away to completion. And we’re still very interested in making more music together. When the time is right, we’ll get started again.
TW: How’d you guys go about doing the tracks? Would one person start one, while the other worked on a different another? Or would you work on one together until it was finished?
CP: Once we had the material completed, I mixed the final tracks into a certain order and then I would send them back to Richard so he could hear the idea. He’d tell me his thoughts, and then I’d rearrange the tracks for a better mix, or I’d take a track out to be replaced with some different music. It was great to be able to send all of the ideas back and forth through the internet instead of the mail because it kept the flow of energy moving constantly, almost as if we were both working in the same studio. I became obsessed with finishing this album because the creative flow wasn’t stopping once it started! (And Richard was on board with the obsession, too.)
ZO: We each sent each other two or three unfinished pieces, and we would send them back and forth online. In the past, we’d had to exchange discs in the mail, as high-speed internet service wasn’t available where I lived, so this was a step forward. Another difference that opened up the music to new horizons was, unlike the previous two albums, we now functioned as sound designers as well as musicians and composers, each transforming and manipulating the tracks we received to bring out something or some quality quite new and sometimes different from what the other had originally sent. Frank Zappa once called this ‘scientifically mutilated’ sound.
TW: Since ambient or space music is free-flowing, composition wise, did you have a plan of where the music would go or did you just let it happen on the fly?
ZO: Have you ever heard a novelist say they merely create their characters & then just let them interact to create the story? Well, as Craig and I create & work on pieces of music, I will begin to see & hear a continuity between some of the pieces, a sort of storyboard idea forming, as it were, and this is mostly how the track order and my ideas for track titles comes about. In retrospect, it does look like we had an over-arching plan or agenda, but we only discover that plan as we go along the process of writing and recording the music.
CP: We feel that much of our music seems to write itself into existence. Many times during the recording process, when Richard sends me an audio track, he sends me multiple versions of the same recording so I can explore his sound and see what and how it may influence me. And other times I’ll send him some tracks to see if he can add any of his touches to the music. If it doesn’t work then we put it aside and try something new.
TW: How do you rate this albums working experience in comparison to what you did together on the previous two albums?
CP: I would rate the experience of creating this album very highly. Even though we were both looking forward to working with Skip again on this release, we appreciate his contribution with helping us get this project moving forward. The main tracks of “Timelessness” began with Skip and I in his studio in California with the intent of sending the finished material to Richard. Until recently, I’d been living in Northern Idaho so I wasn’t able to get to Skip’s studio as much as I used to. Skip had a lot of other projects on his plate and couldn’t dedicate any more of his time. When I went back to Idaho, it became a priority with continuing with Richard on this new material. I was constantly spending all of my free time working on this new music with him. Eventually, it came together as easily as our previous releases.
ZO: I would rate it quite highly. Though we’ve never met in the ‘real’ world, Craig and I know each other well by now, and we know each others’ strengths. I think in this project, we played to each others’ strengths even more than in the past. And this is one thing that made the project come together so very quickly this time.
TW: When the Earth Is Far Away has a timeless quality, where it just takes you on a journey and you don’t mind any of the audio-trip. In fact, you just sink into the music and let it take over. Is this by design?
ZO: Really, yes it is. It’s well known that music can alter heart rates, blood pressure, moods and emotions, even the way in which you think. A couple of decades ago, while playing at a little vegetarian restaurant, I discovered a way to alter the listeners’ perception of the flow of time with music. All three of Craig’s and my albums have this time-stopping quality, none more so than When the Earth Is Far Away. If as you say, the listener will sink into the music and let it take the pilot’s seat, it can take the listener on a marvelous journey of consciousness.
CP What Richard said is extremely accurate.
TW: What track is each of your favorites and why?
CP: My favorite track is the entire album because it has a continuous flow as if it is one track. As a matter of fact, Richard and I had briefly entertained the idea of making this release a one track album! It’s very difficult to choose a favorite track on this, because it’s one of my favorite releases so far! I’ve been listening to this album almost nightly since its inception! But if I had to choose one track… I really like “Blue Distance” because of Richard’s incredible soloing over the music. I also greatly enjoy the final track, “Terraforming” because it really creates a sense of building another world!
ZO: That’s hard to say. I experience the album as a whole most times, but if I had to narrow it to one track, it might be ‘Strange Storms’. There is such a sense of utter emptiness and alien-ness, without a hint of the Eden it could be transformed into with vision, hard work, and technology.
TW: Do you guys have plans for a fourth collaboration?
ZO: It’s a distinct possibility!
CP: It’s more than a possibility. It’s just a matter of waiting for the right time for us to begin creating it. Fortunately, we’re both staying very busy with our own material. At some point, that collaboration bug will bite us again.
TW: Thanks for the audio gift that is When the Earth Is Far Away. It’s a special album.
CP: Thank you, Terry. We’re thankful for the interview, and even more thankful that you enjoy our musical storytelling.
ZO: Thank you!